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What Causes Ringing in Your Ears as You Age?

woman with tinnitus

Ringing in your ears is one of the most common symptoms of tinnitus. This is the perception of noise, even when there’s no external noise source. As well as ‘hearing’ ringing noises, people with tinnitus may experience buzzing, hissing, humming and whooshing noises. 

Although you can experience tinnitus at any age, it becomes more common as you get older. As age-related hearing loss is a common cause of tinnitus, older people may be more prone to developing the condition. With effective treatment, however, age-related hearing loss can be well-managed, and the symptoms of tinnitus can be minimized.

What is age-related hearing loss?

As you age, your body experiences wear and tear, and this can affect how well it functions. In your ears, for example, there are sensory cells within the cochlea. Also known as ‘hair cells,’ wear and tear can affect how well these cells function. As this wear and tear occurs gradually, the impact becomes more prominent as you get older and may present as age-related hearing loss.

Although age-related hearing loss is very common, it shouldn’t simply be accepted as a natural part of the aging process. Ignoring age-related hearing loss can lead to a variety of issues, such as social isolation and an increase in falls, so it’s important that it’s addressed as quickly as possible. 

While age-related hearing loss can’t be rectified as such, it can be treated effectively. With appropriate hearing aids, for example, people with age-related hearing loss can regain their ability to hear sounds clearly and minimize the symptoms associated with the condition. 

Why does tinnitus occur with age-related hearing loss?

There are many causes of tinnitus, and the exact nature of the condition isn’t yet fully understood. However, it’s believed the sound deprivation can cause or exacerbate the symptoms of the condition. If you are unable to hear external noises, for example, you experience sound deprivation. In the absence of external sound, your brain may try and compensate by producing its own sounds, leading to the hissing, buzzing or whooshing sounds you experience. 

As hearing loss prevents you from hearing external sounds, it can be the trigger that causes sound deprivation and, therefore, the symptoms of tinnitus. Technically, this could occur at any age, but the prevalence of age-related hearing loss means its more common in older people. 

Can you treat ringing in the ears?

The symptoms of tinnitus, such as ringing or buzzing in the ears, can be treated or minimized. Firstly, your audiologist will want to confirm that your symptoms are due to age-related hearing loss. By ruling out any other factors which could be causing tinnitus, such as ear infections or Meniere’s Disease, your audiologist can give you an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis. 

If your hearing test results show that your tinnitus symptoms are associated with age-related hearing loss, your audiologist may recommend that you wear hearing aids. Doing so could b enough to resolve the symptoms of tinnitus completely. When you wear hearing aids and your hearing loss is diminished, you are no longer experiencing sound deprivation. Now that you can hear external noises again, the brain no longer needs to compensate by producing its own sounds, and the hissing, buzzing and ringing in your ears dissipates. 

In some cases, the symptoms of tinnitus may continue even when you’re wearing hearing aids. If so, your audiologist may recommend that you wear hearing aids with built-in tinnitus masking features. Often, these hearing aids emit a sound at a high or low frequency, as this helps to mitigate the symptoms associated with tinnitus. While this won’t cure you of tinnitus, it can provide effective symptom management and prevent the symptoms of tinnitus from impacting your day-to-day activities. 

Seeing an audiologist about tinnitus and hearing loss

Even though hearing loss and tinnitus are more common as you age, it’s still important to seek professional treatment. Both tinnitus and hearing loss can have a debilitating impact on people, but this can be avoided with the right interventions. 

There’s no reason to suffer from ringing, buzzing or hissing in your ears, regardless of your age, and there’s no need to put up with hearing loss either. With a wide range of treatments available, your audiologist will be able to provide you with the expert assistance you require when diagnosing and management age-related hearing loss and tinnitus.

To learn more about tinnitus, hearing loss or the treatment options available to you, contact Salyer Hearing Center at one of our convenient locations: Sylva: 828-586-7474, Franklin: 828-524-5599 or at Murphy: 828-835-1014.