The ringing that can appear due to having clogged ears, something that frequently occurs in summer due to air travel, climbing the mountain or vacations on the beach. Diving under water results in a sudden change in pressure and our ears, when compensating for it, produce a sensation of clogging.
In these cases, the recommendations are:
- Keep ears clean and dry. Ideally, it would be to use custom-made plugs.
- Yawn or chew gum. This will help unclog the ear from pressure.
- Use gravity. It will help you unclog an ear full of water. To do this, lie down on a clean towel and dry the clogged ear. Heat and posture will help this drain.
- Do not introduce foreign objects. Neither swabs nor any object that could damage this sensitive area. Furthermore, any damage may be irreversible.
But if the cause of the whistling is not clogging of the ears, or if the buzzing lasts for a long time, you should go to the ENT doctor. One of the causes can be tinnitus, sounds that you hear and that do not really exist.
Why do ringing in the ears occur?
Ringing or buzzing in the ears are called ‘tinnitus’, and consist of the perception of a sound in the absence of a sound source that produces it.
Their origin is unknown, so it is unknown how they are generated and what is their location along the auditory pathway. Theories include the following: Sounds travel through the auditory pathway to the brain. All this auditory pathway is perfectly organized and each sound has its place. Each tone has its place, both in the cochlea and along the entire auditory pathway to the brain. This characteristic of the auditory pathway is called tonotopia.
When there is hearing loss it means that we do not hear some sounds. As these sounds should take their place but we don’t really hear them, the auditory pathway tries to compensate them by producing a “new sound”, an “aberrant sound”. It is believed that this would be the tinnitus origin. We don’t really know where the tinnitus is located but we think it’s somewhere in the auditory pathway.
The ringing or buzzing in the ears does not come from any source that produces it, so it is a subjective perception, only heard by that person. For this reason, they have also been called ‘phantom auditory perception’, which can be temporary, permanent, intermittent, continuous, of variable intensity, and of different tones (serious or treble).
Are tinnitus a symptom of a disease?
Most of the time tinnitus is perceived when there is deafness or hearing loss, in fact in 90% of cases this is the case. Although sometimes this hearing loss cannot be measured with the technological means that we have. The usual audiometry does not measure very high frequency sounds, which are the sounds that are previously altered by age and by exposure to noise. This hearing loss can occur, most of the time, as a consequence of prolonged exposure to very intense noise, that is, at a very high volume (including music). It can also be due to the consumption of ototoxic drugs, some of daily use such as aspirin; and presbycusis or deafness due to aging.
Causes of hearing loss
Generally, the tonality of tinnitus is the same as that of the sounds that are missing in this hearing loss. If there is a hearing loss for low sounds, it will be motor-like, if there is a hearing loss for high sounds, it will usually be like a whistle. Although all this is very variable. Hearing loss caused by age and exposure to noise is usually a loss of high frequencies.
The origin of hearing loss is influenced by cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes, overweight; as well as the consumption of stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco; and finally, the appearance of tinnitus is linked to stress; Tinnitus sometimes also appears in situations that are related to contractures of the chewing, jaw and neck muscles and that is why they can occur in stressful situations.
In most cases the presence of tinnitus does not affect and is not given importance. However, there are some people, 0.5-1% of the population, for whom these tinnitus make life more difficult. In these cases, the way in which the patient processes that noise and knows how to manage the emotions that it generates is what will condition the degree of discomfort that can range from not bothering to being mild or intense and perpetuating over time, if it is recreated.
For this reason, the first and fundamental phase of treatment is knowing that it is a symptom, not a disease, and that we must try to learn to manage that emotion, our reactions and alertness to tinnitus, not paying more attention to it than necessary. It is important to learn to live with it without paying attention to it. After receiving information of this type from the specialist doctor, which is called therapeutic advice, 84% of patients manage to get used to it.
Is there a treatment?
In addition to counseling and therapeutic education, treatment will include sound therapy, which consists of tinnitus masking and habituation therapy.
Auditory masking therapy is based on one noise being covered by another noise. The daily noises of the environment mask during the day, that is why tinnitus is perceived more with the silence of the night. We can also mask with soft music, finally, there are specialized devices, such as bedside alarm clocks, which are generators of different noises. The patient chooses which of these noises (sea noise, birds, broadband noise…), based on the tonality and intensity of their own tinnitus. Today what is intended is to achieve a habituation of tinnitus, without the need for the noise that we add to be more intense than the tinnitus and cover it completely.
Finally, if there is hearing loss, we recommend the adaptation of hearing aids so that those sounds that are missing, that are not heard and that the auditory pathway misses, can be recovered with the sound amplification achieved with the hearing aid. In addition to amplifying hearing, some hearing aids generate masking sounds that help to “cover it up”, according to the needs of each person.
In other words, these hearing aids can be used to treat hearing loss and also noise generators, and if there is no hearing loss, act only as noise generators.
There is a relatively frequent pathology called sudden hearing loss or sudden deafness, in which hearing is lost quickly or suddenly, which is very frequently associated with disabling tinnitus. The treatment will consist of the aforementioned, but if the result of the process is a profound hearing loss, not susceptible to amplification with hearing aids, the treatment for tinnitus will be a cochlear implant. Restoring hearing to that ear with profound deafness, in most cases, makes tinnitus disappear or makes it more tolerable, in addition to treating hearing loss.
Are there exercises to alleviate tinnitus?
Stress is a state of physical and emotional tension that produces great tension and muscular contracture that noticeably affects the neck and chewing muscles, producing cervical and back stiffness, masticatory hyperactivity, and dental clenching.
The ear is related to these anatomical structures by proximity, by sharing muscles in common, and by neurological pathways. Thus, the emotional tension that activates these muscles and nerve connections, produces effects within the ear that can be expressed as subjective noises (tinnitus or buzzing), a sensation of ear plugging, and even pain.
Stress is a trigger for tinnitus, so it is important to find out what situations trigger it. We are all affected in one way or another by stress, anxiety and exhaustion, both physical and mental. Well, all of them present a direct cause and effect relationship both in the appearance of tinnitus and in its treatment and prognosis. Thus, by changing some habits in our lives that help us control stress, we can help control tinnitus in the context of a multidisciplinary treatment.
As the first step in the treatment of tinnitus, it is essential that the person have their basic needs regulated; that is, eating, sleeping, varied stimulation, a minimum of physical exercise and relaxation.