We’re kicking off Tinnitus Awareness Week, which is recognized during the first full week of February. This year, it spans from February 7th to the 13th.
The purpose of this week is to inform the public about what the symptoms of tinnitus sound like and how it impacts people on a day-to-day basis. Tinnitus is the perception of noise when there is no environmental or physical source of the sound. It may manifest as a buzzing, chirping, clicking, hissing, humming, ringing, or roaring noise in the ear. About 15 to 20 percent of people experience it. It isn’t an actual condition, but it is a symptom of an underlying illness. Some of it may be caused by age, hearing loss, an injury to the ear, or a circulatory system disorder.
A Brief History Lesson on Tinnitus
Ancient Egyptians called it the bewitched ear or humming in the ear. Treatments were used with the hope of a cure. Infusions of frankincense, herbs, oil, soil, or tree sap were applied to the outer ear by using the stalk of a reed. Egyptian art, known as “ear stelae”, portrayed each ear with images of devout worshipers. They would pray to gods and ask for their symptoms to be cured.
4th Century B.C.E.
Early Greco-Romans were the first to consider treating tinnitus as a symptom, and not as a condition in and of itself. Based on how the tinnitus started, different treatments would be implemented. If it was caused by a cold, the ear would be cleaned out and they’d hold their breath for as long as they could. If it started from the head, exercise, rubbing, and gargling was recommended as a remedy. Aristotle and Hippocrates utilized masking, which suppressed the noises from their tinnitus by listening to something else.
Other experimental methods were used during the Middle Ages. Different liquids were drained into the ear of those who were afflicted. They would also toss dampened pieces of wood onto a fire so that the crackling noises from the blaze would cover up the tinnitus until they fell asleep. Another method was ear candling. This is when liquified wax from a burning candle is drained into the ear, and once solidified is pulled out of the ear canal to draw out wax and debris. This is method is not recommended by any hearing healthcare professionals.
The French physician Jean Marie Gaspard Itard, made progress in studies on tinnitus during the 19th century. Itard linked tinnitus to hearing loss and gave detailed descriptions of early reports on objective and subjective tinnitus. He made attempts at creating methods for masking the noise with little results but eventually, new improvements on tinnitus research became available. Even though tinnitus has become more manageable with treatments like meditation, vitamin intake, tinnitus noise-masking apps, and hearing aids with tinnitus masking programs, there is still more research that is needed to better understand it.
If you, or a loved one, are experiencing tinnitus or hearing loss, please get in touch with one of our hearing aid providers for a complimentary consultation.