What happens when you can hear jingle bells 24/7? And we are not talking about being Christmas crazy. Tinnitus is a very common thing, affecting over 50 million US citizens. It’s a condition that occurs within the ear canal, where noise is interrupted and echoed.

The most common noise people associate with tinnitus is a constant ringing, where it can actually be any one of a varied list of noises including clicking, chirping, whistling and white noise. It can also be an intermittent sound. For most tinnitus sufferers their underlying noise is a lot worse when background noise is low, or at night. But for some, it’s a noise that interrupts every aspect of their lives, including concentration. For the rare sufferer, their tinnitus causes all other noise to be louder than normal, and rather than needing help to muffle the ringing; they need help to muffle everything.

To the luckier sufferers, tinnitus can just be an underlying annoyance, and most of the time it can easily fade into the rest of the background noise. Most of the time tinnitus is only noticed when the background noise is low, like at nighttime. But for some people it can be a noise that continuously interrupts their lives, preventing any concentration, preventing any proper sleep and can even cause issues with work and in relationships. The constant ringing would pervade everything; wearing you down, causing you to be constantly exhausted, and never able to listen to anything properly – apart from that constant ringing.

There are many things that could be the cause of tinnitus in a person. The simplest, and probably the most common, would be prolonged exposure to loud noise, which causes brakes to the eardrum and ear canal. The noise could be fireworks, and music listened to too loud through headphones, or at concerts. There are many other noises that can cause tinnitus – including bombs and gunfire, which is why many soldiers develop this hearing issue.

Other things that can be a cause of tinnitus are infections and blockages in the ear. Which is why when your sinuses are blocked you can often get that underwater feeling, where everything is muffled, and where you can get a ringing sound when you move your head too quickly. When the infection is cured, or the blockage removed, the tinnitus can disappear immediately or slowly over time. But, in some cases, it can be a lasting side effect.

The last common cause of tinnitus is sustaining an injury to the head and neck often caused by a car accident or fall. In many cases, an audiologist can help with any structural issues. However it might just end up being another lasting souvenir from that experience.

Tinnitus doesn’t have a cure, but it can be helped with hearing aids that muffle the ringing sound. It can be worsened by drinking alcohol, smoking, drinking caffeinated drinks, and even eating certain foods. And, yet to be understood by scientists, exhaustion and fatigue can increase the ringing.