Tackling Tinnitus

Human Ear

I'm still young, so I try not to worry too much about my health or what things will be like when I'm elderly. Lately, though, something's really been bothering me. I'm worried about my hearing. I can hear just fine all day long — that's not the problem. The issue is that, when it's very quiet, I can hear a noise. It sounds kind of like a whine or a high-pitched ringing. It's not super loud, but I can hear it. It's making it harder for me to sleep. I'm not just staying awake because of the noise, either: I'm lying awake and worrying. I'm thinking that, if my hearing is already getting messed up while I'm a college kid, then how bad will it be when I'm an adult? I'm kind of freaking out. Experts, please help!

Being young is a wonderful thing, and you shouldn't let worries about your future ruin your present. But you shouldn't completely ignore your future and your long-term health, either. No matter how carefree you may be — or want to be — you need to take responsibility for yourself and your future. You should do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, visit a primary care physician regularly, and you should address health concerns as they arise by consulting with a doctor. A health issue has arisen for you, so your next step is simple: You should go to the doctor! Your primary care physician should be able to refer you to an audiologist, who will be able to address your hearing problem. The path to better hearing and a brighter future for your ears is through professional hearing care services from pros who have studied audiology.

That's the most important part of our advice to you, but don't worry: We have a bit more information for you. Before we go further, we should note that we can't diagnose you from your letter alone; you need to see a doctor to get hearing help!

With that said, the symptoms that you are describing sound like tinnitus. Tinnitus is characterized by a noise, often (but not always) described as a "ringing," in a person's ears. Technically, Tinnitus is about the "perception" of such a noise, because the noise is not always real. Tinnitus is best understood as a description of symptoms rather than a specific condition. Various issues with the ear — or with a person's mental health — can cause the issue. The noises can vary, too: Clicking, roaring, and ringing are among the ones that experts have learned to recognize.

Typically, the noise is "real" in the sense that it can be traced to a problem in the ear or ears. Sometimes, there's no major issue: An expert might recommend a white noise machine to help you sleep and then send you on your way with a reminder to take care of your ears. Other times, though, tinnitus can point to a more serious issue. It's important to speak with an expert about the issue, explain the pros at Hearing Health USA, a network of audiologists and hearing specialists with a reputation for good service and unsurpassed care. It's particularly vital to seek help if your tinnitus has come on suddenly or followed a respiratory infection. So head to the professionals at your local hearing center. A hearing professional can tell you more about your situation after they conduct a hearing test. Some audiologists even offer free services.

Tinnitus can emerge at any age and can get worse over time. It can be caused by exposure to loud noises, old age, or even earwax blockages; it's often connected to hearing loss, so you may hear the ringing even if you're having trouble hearing other things. While it's not always a serious issue, you should take steps to limit your risk. In addition to heading to the doctor soon, you should strive to avoid loud noises (including the ones from your headphones — especially the in-ear variety). Keep your life's volume low when you can control it, and use hearing protection when you can't (such as at concerts). Taking your hearing health seriously every day will make a big difference in your hearing years from now. Being smart now will make life better for you in old age: You'll enjoy better hearing and less hearing loss. Knowing that you're doing the right thing now will allow you to once again be carefree about your healthy future.

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