Tinnitus, which is often referred to as a “ringing of the ears,” affects 45 million Americans, including a large number of war veterans. Individuals suffering from tinnitus will hear pops, white noise, whistles, bursts of air without any external auditory stimulus; tinnitus is a sound that comes from within. Though tinnitus has been linked with hearing loss, there is no singular cause for it.
There are two types of tinnitus, subjective and objective. Objective tinnitus is rare, comprising of less than 1% of tinnitus cases; with this type, both the person experiencing tinnitus and a person sitting nearby can hear the sounds. On the other hand, subjective tinnitus is the most common type, comprising 99% of cases. Subjective tinnitus is often linked with hearing loss. The Hearing Health Foundation estimates that 90% of tinnitus cases occur with an underlying hearing loss.
Many cases of tinnitus and hearing loss go hand in hand. In some instances, they share the same causes. For example, age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss both cause damage to inner ear hair cells. Tinnitus may appear if someone experiences age-related or noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing specialists theorize that damage to inner ear hair cells may cause them to send phantom signals to the brain to be registered as sound. Problems with the ear bone and earwax blockage in the ear canal may lead to both tinnitus and/or hearing loss, as well as certain classes of drugs which damage inner ear hair cells.
Celebrities, with all of their glitz and glamor, are also subject to the same challenges we are – including tinnitus. Below are a few celebrities who are open about their tinnitus experiences.
Streisand is a multi-talented figure, known for both her acting and her musical career, both of which span an impressive six decades. With ten Grammy Awards under her belt, one might think that her tinnitus is related to exposure to music. However, Streisand revealed to Barbara Walters in 1985 that “she had been living with tinnitus since she was just nine years old…she was sitting in a classroom at school when suddenly she started hearing a ringing in her ears that hasn’t stopped since.” Though this must have been troubling for a young child, Streisand waited years before seeking medical treatment. “I lived with a secret,” said Streisand. “I was afraid to find out what it was.”
Best known for his role as James T. Kirk, Captain of the USS Enterprise, William Shatner’s acting career spans seven decades. Shatner’s tinnitus began after a staged explosion on the set of Star Trek went off next to him and co-star Leonard Nimoy. Almost immediately, he began to experience “a screeching in his head that refused to go away for years.” After struggling with the sounds, he eventually sought help from an audiologist. Additionally, to manage his tinnitus, Shatner limits his coffee and alcohol intake, exercises regularly, and listens to soothing sounds at a low level to help train his brain away from the difficult sounds. Shatner has been very open about his experiences with hearing loss and tinnitus throughout his career, helping to shed light on these invisible conditions.
As the daughter of Judy Garland and Vincent Minnelli, Liza Minnelli was destined for a life of stardom. In 1973, her father Vincent was sitting next to her during the Academy Awards, when she won Best Actress for her role in Cabaret. Liza recalls that her father was so excited that he yelled loudly into her ear, which she pinpoints as the cause of her tinnitus.Tinnitus may happen due to a single event of exposure to sudden, loud noise, as in the case with Liza Minnelli and William Shatner. It may happen inexplicably, as in the case of Barbra Streisand. There are also instances where tinnitus might develop after long-term exposure to high levels of sound, as with musicians such as Eric Clapton and Phil Collins.
Tinnitus is a frustrating and life-altering condition, especially for people who experience chronic tinnitus. There is no definitive cure for tinnitus, although treating related medical issues and addressing hearing loss often alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus. Since tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss, treating tinnitus with a hearing aid is the best solution to reduce or mask the sounds.
As evident with the highly accomplished musicians and actors above, there is no reason that tinnitus should prevent you from leading a healthy, productive life. Here at Puget Sound Hearing Aids and Audiology, we offer a number of hearing aids from leading manufacturers that provide tinnitus therapy. These features provide sound masking, which uses synthetic or natural sounds to re-train your brain away from focusing on the tinnitus sounds. For more information, contact us today