ATA's Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions
There currently is no cure for tinnitus but you can help us reach the ultimate goal of silencing ringing in the ears. Our mission: The American Tinnitus Association exists to cure tinnitus through the development of resources that advance tinnitus research.
Tinnitus is the medical term for the perception of sound in one or both ears or in the head when no external sound is present. It is often referred to as "ringing in the ears," although some people hear hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping or clicking. Tinnitus can be intermittent or constant-with single or multiple tones-and its perceived volume can range from subtle to shattering. To read more about tinnitus and what it is exactly, please read this article.
That article was from our tri-annual magazine, Tinnitus Today, published in April, August and December. The magazine is one of the many benefits of becoming an ATA member. If you found that information useful, consider joining our fight to cure tinnitus.
3) What is ATA doing for me?
ATA's mission is focused on finding a cure for tinnitus - and those efforts are all pursued with you, the tinnitus sufferer, in the forefront of our thinking. We know that the tinnitus community wants exactly what we want at ATA - the restoration of silence to all the millions who suffer worldwide. By fundraising to support ATA’s research and advocacy programs we will find that cure. The research we fund has been instrumental in many of the breakthroughs in scientific research on tinnitus.
We also want to share with you how we are moving mountains in Washington, D.C. on behalf of you, the tinnitus sufferer. What's more exciting is that our mission continues to gain momentum in the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. Read more about how our work is influencing legislation and increasing federal funding for tinnitus research - all on behalf of our members and supporters. These efforts will not only help to expedite that ultimate cure but will also keep tinnitus in the forefront of policymakers' decisions when thinking about biomedical research budgets. By joining our Action Alliance or supporting ATA's continued efforts through a donation, you are helping us all get to that collective goal of silence.
4) How close are we to finding a cure for tinnitus?
It’s anyone’s guess when that "aha moment" will happen. The growing quality of the research proposals received and reviewed by ATA’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) continues to both increase and impress. One important note is that in contrast to older applications, many of the grant applications now involve human research. You can read more about the grants ATA has supported in our Research section.
ATA’s Roadmap to a Cure, crafted by SAC, maps out what we need to find and how to get there. Research funded by the American Tinnitus Association focuses on two main areas: mechanisms and management. "Tinnitus mechanisms" research explores what the condition is about, where it occurs, how it occurs – the who, what, where, when and why questions. "Tinnitus management" research looks into treatments available, how well those treatments work, and the development of novel treatments such as brain stimulation devices. Read more about tinnitus research in the ATA Research section.
6) Can anything be done to treat and manage my tinnitus now while we all wait and hope for a cure?
The simple answer is yes, there are tinnitus management strategies that are available to tinnitus sufferers. However it is important to note that these options do not work for everyone and do not work to the same degree for each individual patient. This is why we stress the importance of discussing your particular tinnitus situation with a qualified health professional. You can access our listing of health professionals in your area immediately by becoming an ATA member.
One of the most effective forms of therapy for tinnitus patients is what's called sound therapy. Here is an article about why sound therapy works. Please also visit the ATA Store to see the variety of sound therapy products we have available. ATA members receive discounts on all ATA Store products.
However, in many cases tinnitus accompanies hearing loss. Because hearing loss can be caused by noise damage to the ear, an individual can get both hearing loss and tinnitus from noise damage. However the two do not always occur together. There are many who have no measurable hearing loss but have tinnitus. Read this article from Tinnitus Today that discusses the ongoing research to regenerate hair cells and what implications there are for both tinnitus and hearing loss.
9) How many people have tinnitus?
50 million people in the United States experience tinnitus to some degree.1 Of these, about 16 million have it severe enough tinnitus to seek medical attention and about two million patients are so seriously debilitated that they cannot function on a "normal," day-to-day basis.
Noise is the leading cause of tinnitus and our world has gotten progressively noisier. Noise is in abundance not only in recreational situations like concerts and sporting events, but many face extreme noise on-the-job. Firefighters are one of the many emergency service personnel at risk for developing tinnitus. You can read about one man's story and struggle with tinnitus that appeared in our magazine, Tinnitus Today.
10) What causes tinnitus?
We have made tremendous advances through research, based on what is known about the auditory (hearing) system - sound is detected by the ear and processed by the brain. On the other hand, the exact physiological cause or causes of tinnitus are not known. There are, however, several likely sources, all of which are known to trigger or worsen tinnitus.
- Noise exposure - Exposure to loud noises can damage and even destroy hair cells, called cilia, in the inner ear. Once damaged, these hair cells cannot be renewed or replaced.
- Head and neck trauma - Physical trauma to the head and neck can induce tinnitus. Other symptoms include headaches, vertigo, and memory loss.
- Certain disorders, such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, Meniere's disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and thoracic outlet syndrome, can have tinnitus as a symptom. When tinnitus is a symptom of another disorder, treating the disorder can help alleviate the tinnitus.
- Certain types of tumors
- Wax build-up
- Jaw misalignment
- Cardiovascular disease
- Ototoxicity - Some medications are ototoxic, that is, the medications are harmful or damaging to the ear. Other medications will produce tinnitus as a side effect without damaging the inner ear. Effects, which can depend on the dosage of the medication, can be temporary or permanent. Before taking any medication, make sure that your prescribing physician is aware of your tinnitus, and discuss alternative medications that may be available. To learn more visit: ATA.org/resources#ototoxic
- Pulsatile tinnitus - Rare type of tinnitus that sounds like a rhythmic pulsing in the ear, typically in time with one's heartbeat. This kind of tinnitus can be caused by abnormal blood flow in arteries or veins close to the inner ear, brain tumors or irregularities in brain structure.
Do you have questions, would like to become a member or request additional information?
1. Data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).