Breaking the Sound Barrier: Understanding and Treating Tinnitus

You are currently viewing Breaking the Sound Barrier: Understanding and Treating Tinnitus

Last updated on May 6th, 2023 at 07:02 am

Noise pollution is a danger often ignored by many of us. Unlike air pollution, noise pollution is not visible and is often considered not as harmful; however, just like other pollutants, exposure to loud and constant noise has harmful effects. It is one of the leading factors of hearing loss which can also be accompanied by tinnitus.
Tinnitus is more common than we realize. Globally, around 750 million people suffer from tinnitus and it is perceived to be a major health issue by millions. If you are over 30 there is a high chance that you have experienced some form of tinnitus at least once in your lifetime.

In this blog, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments for tinnitus. Whether you are suffering from hearing loss, have experienced tinnitus in the past, or even have tinnitus, this post will help you understand tinnitus and will provide you with information to manage tinnitus and possible new treatments in the field.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus (pronounced tih-NITE-us or TIN-ih-tus) is a health condition that is described as a perception of sound without any external source. These perceived sounds could be ringing, clicking, buzzing, hissing, or even roaring. In some patients, these sounds could be high pitched while in others it might be a low-pitched loud noise felt in either one or both of the ears and sometimes in the head. Tinnitus affects different people differently where for some the noise in the head or the ears is constant and loud while for others it can be intermittent and soft.

Tinnitus is a sensorineural response in the brain to the damaged auditory system. It is a common health issue that affects around 10-15% of Americans according to different surveys. It affects around 700+mil people worldwide, out of which only 1-2% of cases of tinnitus come under serious cases where the patient is not able to manage, ignore or drown out the noise, even with treatment options.

Tinnitus Symptoms

Tinnitus can be either subjective or objective, and most people who suffer from tinnitus have subjective tinnitus which means that only they can hear the sound or noise. However, some old patients may have a form of objective tinnitus known as Pulsatile tinnitus. Such patients hear their heartbeat and blood moving through their ears due to hardened arteries, this type of tinnitus can be heard by others as well by using a stethoscope. Although many of us have experienced some form of tinnitus in our lives, especially in a quiet room, it is important to note that sometimes pulsatile tinnitus could be a symptom of an underlying issue like tumor and blood vessel damage, which needs immediate attention.

In serious cases of tinnitus, patients need care not only to drown out the noise but for other psychological issues, it may cause. Tinnitus can trigger the fight or flight response of the body and can make it hard to concentrate on other activities, making the patient unable to perform their daily tasks which can lead to depression and anxiety.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Even though tinnitus is a common health issue, We still don’t know exactly what causes tinnitus. Some researchers think that tinnitus is similar to chronic pain where pain persists even after the wound or the fracture has healed. There is some truth to that as it is a common experience to feel our ears ringing even after getting away from a loud and noisy place such as concerts or construction sites.

Hearing loss may be another cause of tinnitus. The sound we hear travels in waves; these waves go through our ear canal to the inner ear where hair cells in the cochlea turn these waves into electrical signals which our brain converts into sounds. When these hair cells get damaged due to reasons like old age, drugs, or environmental factors, it becomes hard for us to hear others properly. This might lead to our brains overcompensating and creating sounds that it is not getting from those damaged cells which results in conditions like tinnitus.

Other probable reasons for tinnitus are:

  • Environmental factors like Construction work, Musicians.
  • Infections like Sinus Infections, Ear infections.
  • Cardiovascular diseases like Carotid Artery.
  • Ménière’s disease of the inner ear is accompanied by vertigo, tinnitus, and hearing loss.
  • Brain tumors, like tumors around the 8th cranial nerve.
  • Hormone-related Low estradiol and melatonin levels.
  • Thyroid abnormalities, including lower or higher levels of thyroxine in the body.
  • Ototoxic Drugs like Aspirin and other NSAIDs, antibiotics like Doxycycline, Chloroquine, some diuretics, and antidepressants like Amitriptyline, Clomipramine, and Imipramine.

The exact reason for tinnitus is hard to pinpoint and there are several probable causes because the part of the brain and the neural circuit which processes sound also affect the limbic region which changes mood and emotions.

Tinnitus Cure (Treatment)

Tinnitus and its exact causes are poorly understood and in the absence of one primary cause, not many treatment options are available. Most tinnitus treatments focus on its management rather than cure. These treatment options include:

Hearing Aid For Tinnitus

Hearing aids or sound amplification devices may help treat tinnitus. According to the studies done by the American and British Tinnitus Associations, more than 89% of the people who suffer from tinnitus also have hearing loss. Hearing loss can lead to a decreased comprehension of speech in a noisy place. This might lead to our brain producing phantom sounds to fill in for missing sounds during a conversation, hearing aids help by making it easy to hear others and reducing the effects of tinnitus. However, hearing aids only help around 60% of people who have tinnitus and hearing loss.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy is possibly one of the most common methods to help treat tinnitus. It involves masking the subjective sounds caused by tinnitus by using objective sounds. These sounds can be white noise, pink noise, or other sounds delivered through devices like earphones or speakers, which might negate the sounds being produced as a result of tinnitus. In one research published last year, researchers observed that using white noise in the form of games, through a mobile app designed specifically to deliver better results in much less time, showed better results than just using white noise.
Sound therapy for tinnitus is a research field that is evolving and changing. There is no one method that suits all and that’s why it is important to take expert advice before you use any of these masking methods for tinnitus.

Psychological Therapies

Tinnitus in many cases affects people mentally where they might feel helpless and lose motivation to work or just do their normal daily activities. Even though tinnitus does not have a permanent cure it’s manageable in most cases. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the ways to manage tinnitus. CBT helps change the perspective of people suffering from tinnitus where they stop seeing the condition as debilitating and as a hurdle rather they start taking it as an issue that causes problems that are manageable. CBT can be done digitally or in person, and it is one of the best ways to manage tinnitus.
Other forms of psychological therapies for tinnitus are group-based mindfulness interventions and acceptance therapy which are used by specially trained professionals to help manage or treat tinnitus. It is important to note that such therapies take time and require full commitment from the patient for them to work.


Neuromodulation is a field of study that aims to treat brain-related health issues by changing the way neurons respond to stimulation. By, changing how our brain reacts to certain conditions it might stop or decrease the effects of conditions like tinnitus.
Neuromodulation techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), deep brain stimulation (DBS), and spinal cord stimulation (SCS) can retrain your nervous system through the use of different devices which might engage your auditory senses and pain senses at the same time to target the limbic region of the brain to cause therapeutic plasticity which may help alleviate sensorineural issues like tinnitus.
In some trials, neuromodulation devices have been shown to help more than 90% of their users. If these trial results are replicated in real-world usage, it would represent a significant step forward in the treatment of tinnitus.

How to Cure Tinnitus at Home & rid of Tinnitus?

Tinnitus has a wide range of causes and we have yet to find a treatment that permanently treats the condition. There are several management methods for tinnitus some of which can be tried at home.


Studies have shown a relationship between diet and tinnitus, indicating that certain foods and additives may increase the risk of hearing loss or tinnitus, while other foods and nutrients may decrease this risk.
A healthy diet such as the traditional Mediterranean diet which includes whole grains, fruits, homemade yogurt, cheese, seasonal vegetables, olive oil, and low salt along with regular exercise may help in conditions like tinnitus.
As one study indicates higher intake of iron, calcium, and saturated fat is linked with an increased occurrence of tinnitus. To avoid that one might consider adding foods that don’t have these nutrients in high amounts. Instead of eating red meat, you can eat fish which is not only a good source of protein but also contains omega-3 fatty acids which may help bring down LDL levels.
Several patients with tinnitus report a decrease in the severity of their case after they reduced the intake of salt, simple sugars, flavor enhancers, and sugar substitutes. Additionally, Increasing the amount of vitamin B12 through diet or supplements may help reduce the severity of tinnitus.

Exercise for Tinnitus

As we understand tinnitus is sometimes caused by our brain making the sounds in its absence due to reasons like damaged hair cells in the inner ear. Several neuromodulation devices use this knowledge and retrain our brain’s limbic region which results in reducing the severity of tinnitus.

We can use the same concept at home and ‘train’ our limbic region into focusing on other things albeit for a much shorter time than neuromodulation devices.

To do this exercise you should find a quiet place and relax, then:

  • Put your palms on each of your ears and keep your fingers at the back of your skull above your neck region.
  • Keep your index fingers on top of your middle fingers and use your index finger to snap against the skull.
  • This should make a thumping sound in your head and can be slightly painful.
  • Do 30-50 repetitions by snapping your fingers on the back of your head.
  • Do this exercise 3-4 times during the day.

This at-home ‘training’ of the limbic region can be done to get some relief from the constant noise caused by tinnitus.

Along with these methods which you can try at home, some self-help apps are also available which are downloadable on your devices and can be used to mask tinnitus at home.

How To Prevent Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is primarily associated with hearing loss and it is important to use proper precautions if you are exposed to constant loud noise due to the nature of your work or other environmental factors.

While working in a loud place you should always wear hearing protection gear which includes ear muffs, plugs, and covers. These devices can protect your inner ear hair from being damaged due to sudden or constant loud noise which bends and breaks them.


Tinnitus is caused by several issues and is often not caused by just one reason. It is a result of dysfunction in the sensorineural system of the brain and can result in creating a perception of noises that are subjective and can sound like clicking, roaring, hissing, or roaring of different intensities. Tinnitus affects different people differently, where some can manage to live with it while others need medical and professional intervention. There is no known cure for tinnitus and most of the treatment methods help in the management of tinnitus which aims to reduce the effects of tinnitus or prevent further progression with the help of hearing aids, neuromodulation devices, and psychological therapy. It makes it important to try and involve preventative methods to stop tinnitus caused by hearing loss which can be caused by environmental factors.
Living with tinnitus is hard however there are treatments to help you manage the condition and allow you to live your life independently.
As scientific research continues we will have better and improved ways of treating tinnitus, soon.