This post is part of our new “Hearing Loss is Not Harmless” series. This series of posts will walk through several common physical, mental and emotional health conditions that have been found to cause—or be caused by—hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Along with the 48,000,000 adults in America living with hearing loss1, there are 25,000,000 experiencing tinnitus2—and many are suffering from both.
Haven’t heard of tinnitus? It’s a ringing, humming or buzzing in the ears that can be caused by such things as exposure to loud noise, ear infection, ototoxic medications and high blood pressure3. You may hear it pronounced tin-NIGH-tus or TIN-it-tus.
Tinnitus doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender or ethnicity; it can affect anyone. In fact, tinnitus and hearing loss are the two most common war injuries, surpassing even PTSD4 (post-traumatic stress disorder). Roughly 60% of veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan are affected5. In addition, 1 in 5 high school students has permanent ringing in the ears caused by noise exposure, or listening to loud music6.
Another 14% of tinnitus cases are due to occupationally-induced hearing loss7, which is the most common work-related injury in the United States. Dangerous noise levels in the workplace affect an estimated 22 million workers, while ototoxic chemicals affect another 9 million8.
A lot of people are able to live with or even ignore their tinnitus, but some people’s tinnitus can become debilitating9. People can experience such symptoms as depression, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating and even physical pain10. In some cases, symptoms may be so severe that they can lead to suicidal thoughts11.
Be sure to ask your primary care physician to perform a hearing test if you’ve been experiencing signs of tinnitus and/or hearing loss. If necessary, your doctor can also refer you to an audiologist to discuss treatment options.
**If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Tweet to the lifeline at @800273TALK. Accessibility options for veterans and anyone with a hearing impairment can be found at SuicidePreventionLifeline.org/GetHelp/Accessibility.**
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1. Hearing Loss Association of America <http://www.hearingloss.org/content/basic-facts-about-hearing-loss> last accessed 9/9/15.
2. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders <http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/pages/tinnitus.aspx> last accessed 9/16/15.
3. Hearing Loss Association of America <http://www.hearingloss.org/sites/default/files/docs/Tinnitus_Feb25-09.pdf> last accessed 9/16/15.
4. PBS NewsHour <http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/science-july-dec13-tinnitus_11-06/> last accessed 9/16/15.
5. Hearing Health Foundation <http://hearinghealthfoundation.org/blog?blogid=58> last accessed 9/16/15.
6. Reuters Health <http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/01/us-teens-ringing-ear-idUSBRE97018U20130801> last accessed 9/16/15.
7. Lindblad, Ann-Cathrine et al. “Tinnitus and Other Auditory Problems – Occupational Noise Exposure below Risk Limits May Cause Inner Ear Dysfunction.” Ed. Manuel S. Malmierca. PLoS ONE5 (2014): e97377. PMC. Last viewed online at <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4020865/> on 9/16/15.
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention <http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/about.html> last accessed 9/16/15.
9. Psychology Today <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-i-hear/201310/tinnitus-can-literally-drive-you-crazy> last accessed 9/16/15.
10. American Tinnitus Association <http://www.ata.org/understanding-facts/impact-tinnitus> last accessed 9/16/15.
11. ABC News <http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Depression/tinnitus-suicide/story?id=15003057> last accessed 9/16/15.