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Risk Factors for Tinnitus

Hearing exam at PEITinnitus involves the sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. Commonly, it’s described as a ringing in the ears, but it can also sound like a clicking, hissing or buzzing noise.

As many as 50 to 60 million people in the United States suffer from this condition. The phantom noise may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and you may hear it in one or both ears. Tinnitus can significantly affect quality of life. Although it affects people differently, if you have tinnitus, you may also experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Sleep problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and irritability 

While anyone can develop tinnitus, there are some groups that are more vulnerable to acquiring the condition. Below are some of the groups at particular risk of developing tinnitus.

Senior Citizens

The primary catalyst of tinnitus is hearing loss, and age-related hearing loss tends to accelerate after the age of 60. As such, seniors are particularly prone to developing tinnitus as they age.  

Active Military Personnel and Veterans

Exposure to gunfire, explosives and loud machinery puts active military personnel at a high risk of noise-induced hearing loss and subsequent tinnitus. The consequences of in-duty noise exposure can last a lifetime. According to the American Journal of Medicine, tinnitus is the leading service-related disability among U.S. Veterans, with 9.7% of all Veterans receiving service-related disability compensation for the condition in 2012.

People Employed in Loud Workplace Environments

Workers involved in agriculture, mining, construction, manufacturing, and transportation are particularly at-risk because of their loud work environments; but tinnitus can be a significant problem in almost any workplace.  

Musicians and Music Lovers

Professional musicians, who spend their working life playing loud, amplified music are at particular danger of developing tinnitus. Many famous musicians acknowledge they have the condition. Music enthusiasts are also in jeopardy, as listening to loud music, whether at live concerts or via recording, can contribute to noise induced hearing loss.

Motorsports and Hunting Enthusiasts

Proximity and repeated exposure to loud engines and firearms make these activities particularly risky for the future development of tinnitus symptoms.

While there is no cure, counseling and sound therapy are successful strategies for dealing with tinnitus. Counseling methods are based on cognitive behavioral therapy and work to understand the physical process that causes tinnitus and manage the reaction to the sound. Sound therapy uses noise, music, or other engaging sounds to help direct a person’s attention away from the tinnitus and to reduce stress.

Patients with hearing loss can also be treated with hearing aids to improve communication. Modern hearing aids are able to amplify the environment to help patients minimize tinnitus awareness. If amplification alone is not successful, a tinnitus therapy signal can also be enabled within the hearing aid to reduce tinnitus awareness and improve relaxation.

The Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI) offers a variety of tinnitus evaluation and management services. Our tinnitus experts create customized treatment plans to fit a patient’s needs.  

For more information, please call 215.780.3180.