Damage of the inner ear as the main cause of tinnitus
"Whistling after a concert should not be taken lightly," says Andreas Schapowal, ear, nose and throat doctor in Landquart and Chur. "If the noise continues for two days, the doctor must be consulted." Because the longer the tinnitus lasts and the visit to the doctor is delayed, the worse the chances of treatment in the event of an inner ear damage, which is considered to be around 90 percent the cause of the disease. The rule of thumb is three months - after that, a doctor can usually no longer treat tinnitus. Treatment is medicated, such as by injecting cortisone. Although the majority of the disease results from damage to the inner ear, there are a whole range of diagnoses in addition to this and psychological. Triggering or reinforcing factors can be problems with the cervical spine or in the tooth-jaw area, internal diseases such as hypertension, diabetes or fat metabolism diseases.
Another factor that affects the tinnitus as a cause or side effect is the so-called hyperacusis - a hypersensitivity to noise. "Like tinnitus, hyperacusis arises from disturbances in the central processing of sound signals, in conjunction with their evaluations. The tendency is increasing due to stress from mental and physical overload as well as noise," says the information sheet of the Wednesday forum of the Liechtenstein Medical Association. Around 40 percent of tinnitus cases are affected, while according to Schapowal it is around 8 percent of the total population.
Around 15 percent of the Swiss have experienced ear noises in their lives. However, this number varies widely across countries.
In general, the older the person, the greater the likelihood of developing it: 20 percent for those over 65 and 30 for those over 75. "This is related to the increasing hearing loss in these age groups" , says Schapowal. In this regard, he refers to the unwillingness of older people to buy a hearing aid: "Basically only half of the people who need a hearing aid also have one." Schapowal shows a certain lack of understanding for this fact and makes a comparison with glasses wearers: "If you lack eyesight, you don't shy away from going to the optician."
It's not just stress that increases tinnitus
In addition to stress, other negative emotional states also promote tinnitus. This has been proven by researchers from the universities of Regensburg, Ulm and Witte-Herdecke. For their investigations, the scientists used the smartphone app "Track Your Tinnitus", which was specially developed for the study.
With the help of the app, 658 tinnitus patients created diary-like self-reports about their emotional states. The researchers compared these entries with the intensity of the ringing in the ears.
Ear noise is determined by several factors
It was already known that patients under stress feel their tinnitus as particularly strong. The Regensburg scientists now also examined the two factors "arousal" and "valence".
In psychology, “arousal” means the degree of internal activation of the nervous system - for example, whether one is agitated or rather calm. The "valence", however, refers to the subjective assessment of the current mood. The test subjects described this mood as good or bad.
Negative moods increase tinnitus
The analysis showed that a higher "arousal" and a negative "valence" similar to stress led to the persons affected perceiving the volume of the ear noises as stressful. The "valence" has a stronger influence. Specifically, this means that if someone has a negative mood, they feel the tinnitus noise as far more stressful.
The researchers' observations are now to be used for new therapeutic approaches aimed at changing emotions and stress. The goal is to reduce the burden of tinnitus so that the patient's condition improves.
Daily tips against tinnitus
Every tinnitus is very individual. The causes are varied and the degrees of severity vary widely. Therefore, everyone has to find out for themselves what is good for them and what may amplify the noise. Nevertheless, there are recommendations that provide a good orientation for chronically tinnitus sufferers.
This helps against sleep disorders with tinnitus
The tinnitus is particularly present at night, when there is no ambient noise. It is understandable that you then concentrate particularly on him. Sleep is usually out of the question. Distraction by pleasant ambient noise can be helpful here. A fountain, a quietly bubbling aquarium or digital sounds of nature such as the sound of the sea or rain pattering help to stop the whistling. Relaxation music is also often perceived as pleasant. Sleeping pills should only be taken in consultation with a doctor.
Stress makes the ear noises louder
Many sufferers report that the ear sounds become more frequent and louder when they are under stress. Anxiety and depressive moods are also considered tinnitus enhancers. In relaxed phases, the intensity usually decreases again. Those affected should therefore take care not to overwhelm themselves in everyday life and regularly plan relaxation breaks. It is important to find out which stressors increase tinnitus. This is the best way to counteract this. Relaxation courses such as autogenic training, yoga and meditation courses and learning certain relaxation techniques can provide relief in many cases.
Avoid noise and give your ears a break
High frequency exposure is a problem for tinnitus-afflicted ears. Listening to loud music through headphones is not recommended. If you play a musical instrument, such as a violin, or want to attend a concert, you should use noise protection plugs. Those who are exposed to high levels of occupational noise are best advised to speak to the company doctor. Perhaps the noise pollution can be reduced with appropriate measures. A change of job may make sense.
Beware of alcohol, nicotine and caffeine
Some hearing is sensitive to alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. The stimulants have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system and can intensify the ringing in the ears. When smoking, the reinforcing effect is attributed, among other things, to the cell toxins it contains. These have an unfavorable effect on the sensitive hearing cells and also negatively affect the blood circulation. Doctors therefore advise against smoking cigarettes if you have tinnitus. Those who notice a worsening of symptoms after drinking coffee and alcohol are also better off not doing so.
Exercise can relieve tinnitus
Exercise is good for most tinnitus patients - even if the symptoms can be more pronounced immediately after training due to the exertion and increased blood circulation. The distraction and the focus on sport help many to forget the tinnitus for a short time. Sport also reduces stress. And those who are comfortably exhausted after exercising sleep better. Gentle endurance sports such as jogging, walking and cycling are particularly suitable. Extreme physical stress peaks are better avoided by those affected.