When ‘Ringing in the New Year’ is Not a Good Thing

HearingMost people love the holiday season for its festivities, being with family and sharing gifts. There is, however, a time when “ringing in the New Year” — specifically ear ringing, also known as tinnitus — can put a damper on all the fun of the holidays.

Tinnitus is a brain phenomenon that can start at any time during life and is usually related to hearing capabilities. While tinnitus can be a sign of a larger medical problem, over 90 percent of people who experience tinnitus do so because of unidentified hearing issues.

It can be quite a shock to experience tinnitus for the first time. While it’s important to see a doctor to determine if you have a medical issue related to tinnitus, as mentioned above, the condition is most likely due to an underlying hearing issue.

HearingNo one knows exactly how tinnitus gets triggered in the brain. The most common explanations in the medical research are major stresses on the body and noise exposure.

Major stressors on the body can include any physical or emotional stress that you experience. For example, receiving treatment for a major medical problem can put enough stress on the body to trigger the perception of tinnitus, the extra neural activity in the part of the brain responsible for auditory sensation and processing. Some individuals carry a lot of emotional stress around the holiday season, which can put extra stress on the body, hence triggering tinnitus.

HearingExposure to general social noise that often happens at office holiday parties or family gatherings is usually not enough to trigger tinnitus. However, you may have accumulated many years of noise exposure over a lifetime and one ill-timed yell or loud song can sometimes serve as the trigger.

Over 50 million Americans experience some level of tinnitus. Most learn to manage it and go on with their lives, but some are severely affected by it. Seeing a medical doctor is important, and so is seeing a hearing health professional to get your hearing tested.

Management strategies for tinnitus abound and many hearing health professionals, usually audiologists, have specific training to help those who experience this problem.

If tinnitus comes your way this holiday season, see your doctor and ask for a referral to your local audiologist to have your hearing evaluated. Enjoy a safe and warm holiday season.