The Cheat Sheet: Tinnitus

flip-michaels-1991by Flip Michaels

Vampires have holy water. Werewolves have silver bullets, and since you work in the radio industry (if not, put this back on the desk... and how did it end up in the lobby!) beware of "tinnitus."

Have you ever had someone note how loud your monitor levels are? And you respond, "Ah, yeah, my hearing's just becoming more sensitive." You could be a prime candidate.

Now the facts!

Tinnitus (pronounced "TIN-ah-tus" or "tin-EYE-tus") is a hearing disorder that affects about one in every six people in America. (Sorry, but I'd have to do some real digging up for Canada and Australia!)

It's characterized by various ringing in the ears.

Please circle one:

(a) a constant single tone.

(b) an occasional ringing that departs completely or lowers to a level only audible in a very quiet room.

(c) rushing or pulsing sounds (SFX: locusts or chirping birds!)

Not only are there different ways of being affected, it may also be perceived louder in one ear than the other.

Tinnitus is caused by trauma (loud audio for any length of time), infection, allergies, drugs, diet, or even by wax build-up in the outer ear.

The GOOD NEWS: we are born with 12,000 to 15,000 hair cells in our inner ear.

The BAD NEWS: human bodies don't regenerate new hair cells. Therefore, (at least for now) tinnitus has no cure. So if you value your hearing, keeping them healthy is vital.

If any of this sounds familiar and you think you have a minor problem, relax. Take some preventative measures such as seeing an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor and have an audiologist do a hearing test. If that seems too extreme, try reducing the gain on your monitor and headphone levels. Instead of the usual level, try to find a lower level that is still loud enough to work with.

For more information, call the American Tinnitus Association at (503) 248-9985. That's (503) 248-9985! Hey! No hearing means no job. No job means no money, and you'll be as broke as a run-over snake.

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