The More You Know: Tinnitus (Hearing Damage)

Credit: UOfMHealth.com

Credit: UOfMHealth.com

Suppressors are one of the fastest growing parts of the firearms industry at the moment. And for good reason – given the right combination of host, suppressor and ammunition, shooting goes from fun to awesome. Besides that, they also just look cool. However, for many of us who have a lifetime of shooting under their belt, some form of hearing loss is a given. A suppressor in conjunction with quality ear muffs and/or plugs can reduce your exposure to damaging noises. Here’s a brief look at tinnitus, one of the more common types of hearing damage among shooters.


From the Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/home/ovc-20180349):

Tinnitus (TIN-ih-tus) is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. A common problem, tinnitus affects about 1 in 5 people. Tinnitus isn’t a condition itself — it’s a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder.

Although bothersome, tinnitus usually isn’t a sign of something serious. Although it can worsen with age, for many people, tinnitus can improve with treatment. Treating an identified underlying cause sometimes helps. Other treatments reduce or mask the noise, making tinnitus less noticeable.

Symptoms

Tinnitus involves the annoying sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. Tinnitus symptoms include these types of phantom noises in your ears:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Clicking
  • Hissing

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. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it can interfere with your ability to concentrate or hear actual sound. Tinnitus may be present all the time, or it may come and go.

There are two kinds of tinnitus.

Subjective tinnitus is tinnitus only you can hear. This is the most common type of tinnitus. It can be caused by ear problems in your outer, middle or inner ear. It also can be caused by problems with the hearing (auditory) nerves or the part of your brain that interprets nerve signals as sound (auditory pathways).

Objective tinnitus is tinnitus your doctor can hear when he or she does an examination. This rare type of tinnitus may be caused by a blood vessel problem, a middle ear bone condition or muscle contractions.
When to see a doctor

If you have tinnitus that bothers you, see your doctor.

image

Make an appointment to see your doctor if:

You develop tinnitus after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, and your tinnitus doesn’t improve within a week.

See your doctor as soon as possible if:

  • You have tinnitus that occurs suddenly or without an apparent cause.
  • You have hearing loss or dizziness with the tinnitus.

Causes

A number of health conditions can cause or worsen tinnitus. In many cases, an exact cause is never found.

  • A common cause of tinnitus is inner ear cell damage. Tiny, delicate hairs in your inner ear move in relation to the pressure of sound waves. This triggers ear cells to release an electrical signal through a nerve from your ear (auditory nerve) to your brain. Your brain interprets these signals as sound. If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken, they can “leak” random electrical impulses to your brain, causing tinnitus.
  • Other causes of tinnitus include other ear problems, chronic health conditions, and injuries or conditions that affect the nerves in your ear or the hearing center in your brain.

Common causes of tinnitus

In many people, tinnitus is caused by one of these conditions:

  • Age-related hearing loss. For many people, hearing worsens with age, usually starting around age 60. Hearing loss can cause tinnitus. The medical term for this type of hearing loss is presbycusis.
  • Exposure to loud noise. Loud noises, such as those from heavy equipment, chain saws and firearms, are common sources of noise-related hearing loss. Portable music devices, such as MP3 players or iPods, also can cause noise-related hearing loss if played loudly for long periods. Tinnitus caused by short-term exposure, such as attending a loud concert, usually goes away; long-term exposure to loud sound can cause permanent damage.
  • Earwax blockage. Earwax protects your ear canal by trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria. When too much earwax accumulates, it becomes too hard to wash away naturally, causing hearing loss or irritation of the eardrum, which can lead to tinnitus.
  • Ear bone changes. Stiffening of the bones in your middle ear (otosclerosis) may affect your hearing and cause tinnitus. This condition, caused by abnormal bone growth, tends to run in families.

Your doctor will examine your ears, head and neck to look for possible causes of tinnitus. Tests include:

  • Hearing (audiological) exam. As part of the test, you’ll sit in a soundproof room wearing earphones through which will be played specific sounds into one ear at a time. You’ll indicate when you can hear the sound, and your results are compared with results considered normal for your age. This can help rule out or identify possible causes of tinnitus.
  • Movement. Your doctor may ask you to move your eyes, clench your jaw, or move your neck, arms and legs. If your tinnitus changes or worsens, it may help identify an underlying disorder that needs treatment.
  • Imaging tests. Depending on the suspected cause of your tinnitus, you may need imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans.

The sounds you hear can help your doctor identify a possible underlying cause.

  • Clicking. Muscle contractions in and around your ear can cause sharp clicking sounds that you hear in bursts. They may last from several seconds to a few minutes.
  • Rushing or humming. Usually vascular in origin, you may notice sound fluctuations when you exercise or change positions, such as when you lie down or stand up.
  • Heartbeat. Blood vessel problems, such as high blood pressure, an aneurysm or a tumor, and blockage of the ear canal or eustachian tube can amplify the sound of your heartbeat in your ears (pulsatile tinnitus).
  • Low-pitched ringing. Conditions that can cause low-pitched ringing in one ear include Meniere’s disease. Tinnitus may become very loud before an attack of vertigo — a sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving.
  • High-pitched ringing. Exposure to a very loud noise or a blow to the ear can cause a high-pitched ringing or buzzing that usually goes away after a few hours. However, if there’s hearing loss as well, tinnitus may be permanent. Long-term noise exposure, age-related hearing loss or medications can cause a continuous, high-pitched ringing in both ears.
  • Acoustic neuroma can cause continuous, high-pitched ringing in one ear.
    Other sounds. Stiff inner ear bones (otosclerosis) can cause low-pitched tinnitus that may be continuous or may come and go. Earwax, foreign bodies or hairs in the ear canal can rub against the eardrum, causing a variety of sounds.

Noise suppression

In some cases white noise may help suppress the sound so that it’s less bothersome. Your doctor may suggest using an electronic device to suppress the noise. Devices include:

  • White noise machines. These devices, which produce simulated environmental sounds such as falling rain or ocean waves, are often an effective treatment for tinnitus. You may want to try a white noise machine with pillow speakers to help you sleep. Fans, humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air conditioners in the bedroom also may help cover the internal noise at night.
  • Hearing aids. These can be especially helpful if you have hearing problems as well as tinnitus.
  • Masking devices. Worn in the ear and similar to hearing aids, these devices produce a continuous, low-level white noise that suppresses tinnitus symptoms.
  • Tinnitus retraining. A wearable device delivers individually programmed tonal music to mask the specific frequencies of the tinnitus you experience. Over time, this technique may accustom you to the tinnitus, thereby helping you not to focus on it. Counseling is often a component of tinnitus retraining.
  • Medications

Drugs can’t cure tinnitus, but in some cases they may help reduce the severity of symptoms or complications. Possible medications include:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and nortriptyline, have been used with some success. However, these medications are generally used for only severe tinnitus, as they can cause troublesome side effects, including dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation and heart problems.
  • Alprazolam (Niravam, Xanax) may help reduce tinnitus symptoms, but side effects can include drowsiness and nausea. It can also become habit-forming

My suggestion: besides a quality set of hearing protection, check out the latest and greatest suppressors on the market. But be careful, silencer collecting can be an affliction of its own. 

 

image



Pete

LE – Science – OSINT.
On a mission to make all of my guns as quiet as possible.
Pete.M@staff.thefirearmblog.com


Advertisement

  • Paul O.

    I’m 58 and tinnitus manifested itself as clicking in one ear and high pitched whining in both. A doctor check showed some hearing loss in one ear and they didn’t offer any solution other than sleeping with some kind of noise maker.

    An Internet search came up with two supplements that might (!) help. One is Pycnogenol. The other is L-Arginine HCI. Supposedly they work by increasing blood flow to the inner ear. I took them for about 3 months and the tinnitus is greatly reduced (by about 80%). They’re probably more likely to work in the case of age related tinnitus. Certainly your mileage may vary. Cost isn’t too bad. Source I used was Vitacost. I’m just a shooter and former service member and have no connection to the supplement industry. FYI only.

  • mrsatyre

    I’ve suffered from tinnitus since I was 8. A kid next to me an outdoor BBQ lit off a firecracker right next to my ear. Took me days to be convinced no one else could hear the ringing in my ears. Thought I’d go crazy. I’ve had 40 years to grow accustomed to it—only that’s never happened. It’s always there and I’m always aware of it. Louder, softer, higher, lower…

    • Anon. E Maus

      I hope you punched that kid in the mouth for that.

  • Ranger Rick

    Pete,

    Thank you for posting this article, this is information that every user of firearms need to be aware of. Private industry and now even the military services are taking real action to prevent/mitigate hearing loss. Quality hearing and eye protection should be in every shooters kit bag and on their head while on the range.

    From one who has suffered a high frequency loss from service, conserve what you have.

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      I can hear mine right now…

  • Hoplopfheil

    I’ve had tinnitus in both ears and hearing loss on my left ear since as far as I remember. My parents don’t know of any clear causes so I was probably born with it.

    Tinnitus sucks. It’s never not noticeable, unless you drown it out. I basically keep music playing or a fan running all the time.

  • Nandor

    This is purely anecdotal as I’ve seen in various places that say Xanax doesn’t increase tinnitus, but in 2 people close to me, it absolutely increased it in one who already had it, and another who didn’t have tinnitus previously, started having it. In both cases stopping the drug stopped the new effects.

    • Joshua

      and some people have more suicidal thoughts on antidepressants than they did before taking them, our brains are very complex things that we don’t really understand sometimes

  • Rick O’Shay

    Even if you’ve already experienced hearing loss, you should still be wearing ear pro to protect your ears.

    • whskee

      I know far too many of the younger guys that think it’s ok to go without hearing protection when we shoot pistol, or use really crappy ear pro with thick framed eye pro that doesn’t allow muffs to fully seal on the ears. I have a lot of difficulty understanding what people say, especially if I can’t see their face to sort of lip read. Life with hearing damage can be difficult and also frustrating to others who don’t understand you can’t hear them. Young folks, you aren’t invincible, where the damn ear pro!

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Ive had a mild case since I was about ten.
    I was standing too close to a short barrel 5.56 MG with no ears on.
    Stupid.

    • Anonymoose

      WHAT?

      • Cymond
        • whskee

          May be one of the few shows I’ve ever seen hearing loss and tinnitus accurately depicted…Archer is one of my most favorite shows ever! And…unfortunately I suffer it in both ears too.

      • Ranger Rick

        Been there.

  • J.T.

    I have it, the ringing is pretty bad. It is like a constant high pitched static noise. Three years of high school drum like that could occasionally get so loud we would set off car alarms is the cause of mine. Take care of your ears, kids.

  • Harry’s Holsters

    I learned to shoot without ear pro or eye pro. I used to think I was tough for not using ear pro. Now I wear ear pro when shooting single shot 22 shorts. I don’t play my music to loud and even wear ear pro when shooting suppressed. It’s a must.

  • Kefefs

    I’ve had tinnitus for about 10 years now, thanks to extended periods of shooting indoors with crappy rental hearing protection. The session that did it was one with a short-barreled AR-10. I had a headache and minor hearing loss immediately afterwards, and once that cleared up I was left with a sharp ringing in my ears that goes in and out. In silence it’s faint, and I can’t usually hear it over ambient noise, but there are times it picks up for a few seconds and it’s deafening.

    I’m lucky it’s relatively mild. The last thing I want is for it to get worse. I now double up and wear both ear plugs and my own quality ear muffs whenever I shoot.

    It worries me when I shoot outdoors there’s always at least one guy not wearing any ear protection, whether it’s the guy scavenging brass or a shooter themselves. I don’t know what the logic is in not wanting to wear a simple pair of cheap ear muffs while you’re next to a half dozen rifles and pistols.

  • iksnilol

    I just hear an occasional high pitched “peep” sound, otherwise I do hear faint static (think standing close to old fashioned TV). You learn to live with it, auditory hallucinations are worse since they make you doubt your sanity (and can also be caused by tinnitus :/ )

  • sean

    DAMN YOU ARCHER!!! I can’t hear or read the word Tinnitus with out laughing my ass off.

    • Hoplopfheil

      Mawp. Mawp.

  • TechnoTriticale

    People need to assume that any noise that induces post-event ringing (even if transient) and/or acoustic reflex (muting, stapedius reflex, AMER) has induced some amount of permanent hearing damage. These events add up. Hearing aids are no cure (and that whole industry is something of a scam).

    It’s not just reports from firearms. Power tools, motorcycles, rock concerts, convertible automobiles, light aircraft and even manual hammer impacts can cause damage. Foam earplugs are cheap protection. Always have some handy.

    Noise-reducing hearing enhancers are worth a look (and as I recall, being adopted by the Army). Hearing loss is the largest medical problem among vets.

    • Ranger Rick

      So mant opportunities for damage including the jacked up volume of the “surtound sound” at the movie theater. I now have a special set of custom fitted plugs just for the movies and loud music. It is not that expensive folks.

  • smartacus

    Xanax to fight tinnitus??
    aren’t there agencies that use Xanax prescription as justification to disarm ?

  • Tim

    I used to get tinnitus after rock concerts when I was stuck in the front in front of a bank of speakers. Another major unmentioned source of hearing damage is motorcycles. The wind blowing in the ears at high speed is loud and pressurized and causes damage also indicated by tinnitus. Best to wear plugs or a helmet, but restricted hearing on a bike can be dangerous.

    Back in the day, I did a lot of high speed driving in a car without AC with the window down and the vent window in my face. This caused my left ear to lose most everything above about 8khz. Coincidentally, the docs at Mayo about went nuts because loss on one side only is fairly unusual. They couldn’t relate to no AC and a rolled down window I guess and kept looking for a tumor or something else.

  • Henrik Bergdahl

    I suppress everything, AND use earpro. I have severe tinnitus and only remedy for me is to never experience total quiet. Which is hard when hunting deep in a forest. That is actually very hard for me. Noise will make me “forget” my tinnitus. Quiet = I cannot not hear it. It is subjective in a way and sometimes I get these attacks where the tinnitus noise is so loud I just have to sit down and wait it out. If that ever sticks I am essentially handicapped for life unable to do anything. Use earpro people.

  • Mike Price

    When I was teenager we went down shooting our guns at the river and never gave it a thought about the noise level. Now I suffer with this and it’s hard to understand certain word sounds. This is a health hazard and will costs millions in medicare costs. There is really no good reason to ban suppressors to reduce this noise. Urban noise is a problem and gun ranges and hunting go right along with the noise produced let alone the ear damage. The gun range I go to is outside and inside the city limits. Even with ear muffs some guns are too loud yet. Especially my 7.5″ AR. I have to wear ear plugs and muffs. Nobody is thinking about he medical costs on it or the enviromental damage.

  • Mike Price

    There was a movement to make suppressor’s none NFA item and it needs to keep going.

  • Sarig

    And this is why suppressors are sold over the counter with no paperwork in the Nordic countries. No harder to buy than a scope.

    Also, USE TWO LAYERS. Either suppressor plus hearing protection, or double hearing protection.

    I don’t even shoot .22lr without something now, alas, a decade or two too late.

  • GomeznSA

    From the article “perception of noise” – Really – ‘perception’? Obviously the person who wrote or approved the article does NOT suffer from tinnitus. For those of us who do – severe and constant in my case – it is not perception, it is reality. We learn to deal with it but we also tend to become hearing zealots. A lifetime of riding motorcycles and shooting (consequence of 42+ years in uniforms) all adds up. Several others have commented regarding being proactive in protecting what hearing one still has. Good advice as once hearing goes, it doesn’t come back.

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      That was from the other blog I quoted…

      I think the word “perception” is used because only the sufferer can hear the the damage as a noise.

      Observed is a noise that everyone can hear.

  • markrb

    I’m 51 and have had it about 9 years now. Was a Road Construction Inspector and around heavy machinery for years, listened to a lot of loud rock, and was guilty of some shooting without hearing protection. But I think what actually started it was when I had my tonsils removed at 42 and was taking Hydrocodone. Now I’m on it for bad knees, and lately found out through research that is a rare side-effect of Hydrocodone. I’ve gone off of it a few times, but still have the ringing.

  • LibertyToad

    I woke up one morning 10 years ago with tinnitus–it came out of nowhere and some unknown reason. It took me 5 years to get used to it. I was put on amitriptyline which does help me sleep at night. You do not want to get tinnitus–it is torture until you get used to it. It never really goes away. Wear ear protection…always.

  • Cian Smith

    I’m 37 and have had it for at least 10 years. A lot of unprotected shooting, lots of rock concert and loud music through a Walkman and Discman, working offshore and in other industrial environments and also driving a Jeep wrangler with the top down for the past 20 years has done it. I get a severe ringing that goes up or down in volume. When it’s really bad, I find that if I push on my ear and completely close it with that little flap that hipsters pierce nowadays, and apply constant pressure for a minute or so, it settles it down a bit.
    The wife has a bad habit of talking and walking away from me. The worst part is when my three year old daughter is talking to my and I can’t understand what she’s saying… 🙁

  • Jim Allen

    From an old hand that wears hearing aid: put some sort of ‘inside the ear’ noise suppressor AND then put on a pair of ‘Mickey Mouse’ ears over the ear.
    You have no idea how frustrating and downright inconvenient hearing loss is.

  • Justin Rodwen Hill

    My sister suffered chronic tinnitus for more than 47 years and it got worse as days passes. We tried many treatments but no result, she cry all time due to this symptoms and think to commit suicide as the noise get worsen. The noise is mostly of a ringing, roaring, buzzing and hissing type. It was constant 24/7. It is very bad affecting every aspect of her life. The sound becomes louder at night, at the time she goes to sleep. I searched online for a solution and came across an Herbalist called Dr. William. His herbal (natural) medicine has cure my sister and he is living a good life now, though it cost us a lot but the goodnews is that the medicine has effectively for her and no more Tinnitus symptoms. If you have same problem, this info might be very important contact him (drwilly37@gmail.com)