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Facts About Noise #9, What is Tinnitus?

BASELINE, A hearing conservation newsletter from the National Hearing Conservation Association. Tinnitus: Will This Ringing Never Stop?  

BY DHYAN CASSIE: Tinnitus/Hyperacusis Management Center, College of New Jersey, Ewing, New Jersey

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, hissing or other head noise that does not come from an external source.

What is the cause of tinnitus?

One of the most common causes is exposure to loud noise. Workplace noise can cause hearing loss and tinnitus. If those exposed to loud sound do not wear proper hearing protection devices, they may find they gradually lose their hearing and suffer from tinnitus. Excessively loud sound can also be from music, power tools and chain saws, gunfire, explosives, and motorcycles.

Tinnitus may only be an annoyance for some people; however, for others it is a chronic condition, which can cause sleeplessness and lack of concentration. This can be a serious problem that can be avoided by proper precaution.

A person who tells a physician about tinnitus may be told to "Go home and live with it." This is possible for some, but others need treatment. Feeling there is no cure for tinnitus can turn a benign symptom into a feeling of helplessness and despair. Negative counseling which provides no hope can actually increase the patient's perception of tinnitus as he feels it will go on forever, may get worse and cannot be effectively treated.

There is help! There is a national organization dedicated to silencing tinnitus. Any person suffering from tinnitus should con- tact the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) at 1-800-634-8978. They will be told about tinnitus clinics throughout the United States that work with patients in alleviating tinnitus. Self-help groups sponsored by the ATA provide information and support.

There are several things that the occupational health nurse or safety professional can do to promote feelings of hope and control for employees experiencing tinnitus.

National Hearing Conservation Association: http://www.hearingconservation.org

Letter from a Tinnitus patient and author.


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