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Tinnitus on the rise due to increase in noise levels

It is no wonder that tinnitus is on the increase, especially amongst younger people. Our ears are assailed daily by noise levels that they were not designed to cope with. It is often said that we have a stone-age body in a 21st Century world. Our ears are capable of picking up tiny sounds that were important for survival in the natural world, for example awareness of prey or predators some distance away.

But if you look at the chart below you can see that many every-day noises such as busy city-centre traffic or even a lawnmower can produce noise levels which, if you are exposed to for too long, can cause hearing damage or even tinnitus. If we take more extreme examples such as a rock concert or nightclub then you can see that hearing damage can occur very quickly. It will come as no surprise then to discover that many performers and disc jockeys suffer from hearing loss and tinnitus.

The chart shows noise levels measured in decibels (abbreviated dB) so here is a brief explanation for anyone unfamiliar with the terminology. The term actually comes from the name of the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, and the measurement has to take account of the huge variation in intensity of the range of sounds we can hear. So if we take a really quiet sound like a watch ticking or leaves rustling and compare with a loud jet like Concorde at takeoff, then the difference in the power of the sounds is about 1,000,000,000,000 times!

So on the decibel chart, 0dB is near total silence but 10dB is ten times more powerful and 20dB is 100 times more powerful, 30dB is 1000 times more powerful, and so on. A hairdryer at 80dB is one hundred times as loud as normal conversation at 60dB. A rock concert of 120dB is a million times as loud as normal conversation.

Any noise above 80dB can cause hearing loss and the loss is related to the power of the sound and the length of time you are exposed. It is no accident then that from February 2006, the new noise regulations lower threshold for the workplace, when ear protectors must be made available, is reduced from 85dB to 80dB. However, legislation will not apply to the music and entertainment industries until 2008 so avoid excessive noise if you are off to a rock concert and take earplugs with you. This particularly applies to existing tinnitus sufferers. Earplugs can improve the clarity of the sound in these conditions and make conversation easier.
Any exposure to noise above 140dB will cause immediate hearing damage.

Despite the risks, it is amazing what lengths some people will go to in order to create deafening sounds. The current fashion is to install stereo systems in cars with more amplification power than the Rolling Stones used to use to fill a stadium. The stereo is probably worth more than the car but we can predict with certainty that the owners will have hearing problems later in their lives.

Varying success for medications to relieve Tinnitus

Many medications have been tried to relieve tinnitus with varying degrees of success. Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and nortriptyline, have been used with some success, but these medications have troublesome side effects, such as dry mouth, blurred vision and constipation.

Two recent clinical trials found that the migraine medications gabapentin (Neurontin) and acamprosate (Campral), a drug used to treat alcoholism, are effective in relieving tinnitus for some people.

Treatments with limited results

Some other treatments that have been tried, but which have had inconsistent results, are:
  • Acupuncture
  • Hypnosis
  • The herb ginkgo
  • Cochlear implant, an electronic hearing device
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Medications, such as benzodiazepines (nervous system depressants) and baclofen (a muscle relaxant)
  • Hyperbaric oxygen chamber, a therapy to get a high level of oxygen in your blood
  • Zinc

Prevention of Tinnitus

Because tinnitus and hearing loss can be permanent conditions, precautionary measures are advisable. If a ringing in the ears is audible after exposure to a loud environment such as a concert or work place, it means that damage is being done. Prolonged exposure to noise levels as low as 70 dB can result in damage to hearing . If it is not possible to limit exposure, wearing earplugs or ear defenders can be advantageous. For musicians and DJs, special musicians' earplugs can lower the volume of the music without distorting the sound and can prevent tinnitus developing in later years.

It is also important to check medications for potential ototoxicity. Ototoxicity can be cumulative between medications, or can greatly increase the damage done by noise. If ototoxic medications must be administered, close attention by the physician to prescription details such as dose and dosage interval can reduce the damage done.

Masking For Symptomatic Relief

A sound with higher decibel can mask the low decibel sound of tinnitus. This can be illustrated below:
Sound from surrounding Environment: A TV programme running in the background is often helpful when the tinnitus is disturbing.

Some examples of masking due to environmental sounds are:

Playing with friends, surfing on a beach, festival and other celebrations.

A "Walkman" or “Ipod” can be used with plug-in-ear earphones; which can be switched on when resting.

Modern hearing aids incorporating latest technological advancement are very effective at submitting the usual soft environmental sounds around you, and helping to get tinnitus mask. Older aids were not useful for this purpose. They can be programmed to amplify the whisper like sound around you without amplifying loud decibel sounds (thus avoiding noise induced hearing loss), and thus mask the annoying unwanted irritating tinnitus sound.

Tinnitus maskers : They are not hearing aids in true sense but generate some pleasing sounds in the ears which are not disturbing. They in no way can be used for people with hearing loss. But its use for masking is very limited as most of tinnitus affected age group are of old age with hearing loss and so hearing aid is a better option..

Thinking, Emotions and Tinnitus

Let's say that someone decides to discover the cause of his tinnitus. He already passed all diagnostic, which discovered no organic base, so it obviously has something to do with his life attitudes: habits, relationships, understandings...

In desire to find a solution he can use: thoughts, logic, emotions, consciousness.

Thoughts: 'I can try that drug...or...The traffic under my window causes my tinnitus...I will find solution alone, I will never..., I have to say her...' Thoughts are many, can be confusing. It is good to find good thoughts....

Logic is finding a correlation between thoughts, events. 'If that tea didn't help to others, will also not to me...'

Emotions: anger, peace, fear...are excitations of the heart. They always appear as heart's response to an event, a thought... Emotions disappear after a while. They can give a taste to our life and help us.

Sometimes is good for us if we are persisting in particular emotins, sometimes is not. How to distinguish this?

Intuition is commonly described as 'power of knowing without reasoning'. It can be compared with consciousness. Consciousness has two meaning: a - awareness, b - a voice which tells use what's right.

With awareness part we can observe and see that particular thoughts revoke particular emotions. We CAN find out what causes peace in us. But peaceful feeling can be tricky. True peace is permanent. This doesn't mean that we will feel a permanent emotion. It means that whenever we check our plans we will feel peacefully if the plans are good and we will lost peace in time if our plans are bad.

There is a voice on the end which will tell us 'yes' or 'no' (to do something).

We don't need to understand that voice. If we find peace with that voice it is enough to listen it and do what it tells us.