Tinnitus in Teenage Boys and Girls
Tinnitus can occur in young Teenage children. Tinnitus is a symptom, a bi-product of hearing loss or damage to the inner ear. The possible causes of Tinnitus in teenagers are many and include infection or injury, while prolonged exposure to loud noise can do irreversible damage. Another theory links puberty to Tinnitus, with growth factors, hormones and stress as possible triggers. Tinnitus is an indication of ear problems, but similarly, doesn’t necessarily lead to significant hearing loss or deafness.
Tinnitus – What is it?
Tinnitus comes from a Latin term that translates as a ‘tinkling’, but it is most often described as a ringing in the ears. The important thing to understand is that Tinnitus is a symptom not a disease, and fixing the cause of it, or preventing it in the first place, are smarter goals. Finding out if the Tinnitus is a symptom of an infection, an inner ear problem, exposure to loud music or another cause can take some time and effort. Time and effort worth making.
Causes of Tinnitus in young teens could range from simple things like wax build up, ear or sinus infections to acquired or congenital hearing loss, where a family history of Tinnitus exists. Though younger teens are less likely to be exposed to loud rock concerts, music venues, clubs and bars, they can be risking their hearing by listening to personal audio devices at unsafe levels of exposure and volume through ear pods or headphones. So, screen time is not the only thing parents should monitor.
Diagnosing Tinnitus in Teenagers
Ear and hearing problems can still be some of the hardest to diagnose and treat, even though they are quite common. Ascertaining a diagnosis in early teens is possibly more difficult, because it’s unexpected, unless they specifically complain about a tinkling, buzzing or ringing in their ears. Tinnitus is most obvious in quiet or silent settings. The sound-proof conditions created for a hearing test may be the only place that the teen will be completely aware of the ringing in their ears. Their day to day world of noise, may be masking or minimizing the Tinnitus symptoms. Awareness may start when the batteries of their phone goes flat! Obvious behavioural indicators could be sensitivity to noise and holding their ears, a drop in focus, irritability and anger, tiredness, anxiety or depression can also be signs. But, they are teens after all.
….sensitivity to noise and holding their ears…..
Because reporting of Tinnitus or hearing loss can be difficult to elicit from teens themselves, parents should consider routinely asking their children about sounds or noises in their head or ears. Tinnitus sufferers tend to also have an intolerance for loud noise. Hyperacusis is another condition for some, when certain high-frequency sounds can be very painful. Any degree of reduced sound tolerance is viewed as a sign of hidden damage to the nerves that process sound and an indicator of possible hearing loss later in life.
What can you do for Teenage Tinnitus?
What is Hyperacusis
Hyperacusis is a hearing anomaly where everyday sounds and noises are very very loud. This heightened sensitivity can range from mild to uncomfortable, painful, distressing and socially impossible. Sounds at a certain pitch or frequency may be particularly problematic for some individuals and not others. Many people feel uncomfortable with loud noises like fireworks and pop-concert music. For the hyperacusis sufferer it may be as simple as a family group at a nearby table in a restaurant or a bird in the garden – www.tasmanianhearingcentre.com.au
If your teen is experiencing Tinnitus, even if a temporary Tinnitus, that would be an early warning sign of vulnerability to the effects of high noise exposure. With a noise-induced hearing loss, the hair cells in your inner ear have been damaged by the exposure to noise. Using earplugs in a noisy environment is one way to protect hearing, while paediatric audiology services can help with therapies, drugs, procedures and hearing aids as part of specifically targeted treatments. A hearing aid can diminish or effectively eliminate Tinnitus as well as being protection from further hearing damage or loss.
If you suspect that your child has Tinnitus you should have them examined by your doctor first. If necessary, your doctor can refer your child to an ear, nose and throat specialist or paediatric audiologist. Understandably, the diagnosis and management of their specific Tinnitus will need to fully respect the child’s age, maturity and comprehension of their individual circumstances.
At age 13 and above, it is likely that most responsibility for effectively managing the Tinnitus will be on the teen themselves. They need to recognise their symptoms, participate in their diagnosis and be active in their treatment.