Do you suffer from ringing in the ears? You're not alone! The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that over 20 million Americans experience chronic ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus (pronounced "TIN-a-tus" or "Tin-EYE-tus"). Tinnitus is an annoying and sometimes debilitating condition, commonly defined as the perception of noise in one or both ears when no sound is actually present. Tinnitus is usually described as a high-pitched ringing, but it might also be perceived as roaring, clicking, hissing or buzzing. The condition can be mild, intermittent, or so severe that it interferes with your sleep, concentration, and enjoyment of daily life.
A recent analysis of data collected as part of the National Health Interview Survey indicated that noise-exposed workers in the United States are 3 times more likely to report suffering from tinnitus than their non-noise-exposed counterparts. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, tinnitus and hearing loss are the top two service-connected disabilities for U.S. service members. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to a number of hazards known to cause hearing loss and tinnitus, including loud noise, blasts/explosions, and ototoxic chemicals. Service members who have suffered a traumatic brain injury are 3 times more likely to experience tinnitus than other veterans. Those exposed to solvents, a class of ototoxic chemicals, are twice as likely to report ringing in the ears.
Tinnitus itself is not a disease. Instead, it can be a sign that something is wrong with the outer, middle or inner ear, the auditory nerve, or parts of the brain that process sound. Noise exposure, acoustic trauma, exposure to chemicals, and ear diseases/infections are some of the most common causes of tinnitus. Complicating its diagnosis and treatment, tinnitus has many other causes as well, including disorders of the heart/circulatory system, stress, hormone changes, and as a side effect of medications, smoking, or too much salt or caffeine. Sometimes the cause of tinnitus is unknown.
So what can a person experiencing tinnitus do about this annoying and on occasion even incapacitating condition? Follow our Top Tips and check out Resources listed below. And of course, when it comes to hearing protection, we've got you covered. Contact CavCom to learn more about our many solutions for controlling noise on and off the job.
For more information/resources:
• National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders – Tinnitus Topic Page
• American Tinnitus Association (ATA)
• Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence – Tinnitus Topic Page
• NIOSH Press Release (2016) Putting an Ear to the Ground: NIOSH Study looks at Prevalence of Hearing Difficulty and Tinnitus among Workers
• Frequent use of over-the-counter analgesics associated with risk of tinnitus (2022). Brigham and Women's Hospital News Release, 2-9-22.
- Special Considerations for Workers with Hearing Loss
- Single-ear Hearing Loss: a Red Flag
- Hearing Loss and OSHA 300 Log
- Tracking Occupational Hearing Loss
- Updated EEOC Guidance Regarding Workers With Hearing Loss