Tinnitus is a disease that develops when people have permanent hearing loss. Individuals with the disease report hearing a constant noise in their ears. The noises can range from dim, high-pitched sounds to something even louder than that. Some studies show that as much as one in ten adults suffer from it. It is also true that some people are more prone than others, especially those who are surrounded by noise in the workplace. Here is a run-down of those who are most likely to develop this disease, and how to cope with it.
Perhaps more than any other segment of the population, combat veterans are highly susceptible to developing hearing problems. The VA website reports that tinnitus is the number one disability among veterans. From the sound of guns and mortars to the noise of helicopter rotors, there's no question that many vets are left with permanent hearing damage. The VA's website offers some tips and advice to vets who are experiencing these problems. Some VA centers also offer programs that vets can sign up for to learn how to cope with this issue.
Factory and Machine Workers
People who work in factories or around heavy machinery are also susceptible to permanent hearing loss. This may also include airport personnel or those who work around aircraft. When people are constantly exposed to loud noises, the small cilia, or hair fibers, become damaged beyond repair. Cilia pick up sound waves and vibrations, which send signals to our brains to help us register sounds. When they become too badly injured, they cannot be repaired, and this is what causes the constant ringing. It's like hearing a permanent sound in your ears all the time.
Musicians who spend much of their career on tour and on the road will inevitably wind up with hearing damage. It's not just high-pitched noises that affect the ears, but low frequencies as well. Musicians who spend their careers surrounded by stacks of amplifiers will have long-term exposure to high and low-frequency sound waves.
What Can Be Done
While this disease cannot be cured, there are ways for people to learn to cope with it. Deep-breathing exercises have a remarkable effect on patients. If those suffering can learn how to slow their breathing, this will help calm their thoughts, and bring their anxiety levels down. Learning to meditate also works.
But for some, this isn't enough. Audio therapy is another form of treatment for tinnitus. For those who suffer, audiologists can help patients find sounds that sooth their pain. Listening to music is a big one, but some may try downloading nature sounds onto their iPods. Others may bring a small fountain into their room to help ease the tension as they fall asleep at night.
Another method is listening to something that isn't necessarily soothing but engaging. Audiobooks, for instance, can help to not only distract the person from the noise, but also to engage their thought processes. Many who suffer from tinnitus find that when the noise is at its worst, it's the only thing they can think about. Listening to podcasts or web-radio programs may also help to focus the patient's thoughts and provide a comforting distraction from the constant noise.