Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a condition where you hear sounds like:

  • Ringing
  • Hissing
  • Clicking
  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Simple nonstop beep either in one or both your ears. It could be either nonstop or sometime as interrupted noises.

Tinnitus is said to affect 1 in every 5 individuals and mostly effects older persons, about 22.7 million US adults are estimated to be suffering from tinnitus.

It is a symptom that warns us that something is wrong in the auditory system, which includes the ear, the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear and the brain and the region of the brain that processes sound. There are many causes of tinnitus:

  • Blocking of ear canal by ear-wax
  • Noise induced hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise
  • Hearing loss due to aging
  • Damage to the nerve ending in the inner ear
  • Hole or rupture of the ear drum
  • Problem in jaw-joints can also cause sounds while moving the jaws
  • Side-effects of certain drugs like aspirin can cause tinnitus
  • Stiffness of the bones in the middle ear
  • Blockage in the Eustachian tube that connects the upper throat to the middle ear resulting in Eustachian tube dysfunction, this can also cause tinnitus
  • Ear infections like otitis media or labyrinthitis
  • Brain tumor
  • Meniere’s disease that is caused by fluid accumulation in the inner ear
  • Thyroid abnormalities
  • Hormonal change in women

Other causes are allergies, tumor, diabetes, heart problem, problem in blood vessels, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, and head injury are also responsible for tinnitus. In most of the patients the exact cause of tinnitus in unknown.

There are two types of tinnitus- Objective and subjective tinnitus.

Objective tinnitus is found in only 5% of overall tinnitus patients. The sound heard in objective tinnitus is audible to others either with the help of a stethoscope or by listening closely near the ears. The sound is caused by either blood vessel or muscular disorder. The sound heard is called as pulsatile, as it synchronous with the heart beat. The source of objective tinnitus can be found and can be treated by tinnitus medication or surgery.

Subjective tinnitus is the common type of tinnitus found in about 95% of tinnitus patients. Subjective tinnitus is audible only to the patient and is associated with every known ear disorder. Two individuals who show the same tinnitus loudness and pitch may yet differ significantly in their causes.

Initial diagnosis is simple and it based on physical examination of the ear.

Doctor might check for formation of ear wax or any other infection that might have caused tinnitus. He will also enquire about your medical history, recent infections, and medicines that you are taking to know the cause of tinnitus.

Your physician might direct you to an otolaryngologist (an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor - ENT) if he is not able identify the exact cause of tinnitus.

The ENT will examine your ears, head, and neck to know the cause and also to check whether hearing loss is associated with tinnitus.

Treatment for tinnitus is easier if the underlying cause is determined. If taking aspirin is the cause of tinnitus, then you doctor might ask you to consult the doctor who prescribed aspirin and get his advice on stopping aspirin.

If it is caused by other illnesses like altered blood pressure, diabetes, allergies etc then treating the underlying cause make tinnitus go away. But, as in many, if the cause of tinnitus is not properly understood then your physician might focus on minimizing tinnitus.

Use of hearing aids may be recommended for people who suffer from both tinnitus and hearing loss.

Using a hearing aid will maximize the surrounding sounds than the sound heard in tinnitus.

Maskers are small device that is placed behind your ears, maskers play constant background noise that makes tinnitus less noticeable. Using both hearing aid and maskers may help a lot.

Relax, as stress can worsen your condition. Most of the time depression is associated with tinnitus, therefore, meeting a counselor will help you cope with it.

Tinnitus restraining therapy involves the use of both counseling and maskers or other techniques. This is not a quick fix but for sure help you with time and practice.

There are no specific medicines for tinnitus but medicines for underlying cause has proved good in many patients. Example – anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressant, antihistamines, anticonvulsants, and few anesthetics are used in successful treatment of tinnitus.

  • To avoid tinnitus you should protect your ears from loud noise.
  • If working around loud noises then wear earplugs or earmuffs.
  • If listening to music in earphones, then keep the volume low.
  • Keep a track of your blood pressure and decrease intake of salt as it interferes with blood circulation.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, tobacco, and cola as they can act as stimulants.
  • Do regular exercise to keep blood pressure under control.
  • Learn to manage stress and stay relaxed and avoid fatigue.

Tinnitus in many cases doesn’t go away completely. People with tinnitus may have to learn to cope up with the condition.

Few suggestions to help you cope up with tinnitus are that you need to get counseling and know how to make tinnitus less bothersome.

Counseling will also help you to control anxiety and depression. It is good if you share your experience with others who are suffering with the same.

Join a support organization, check whether it is facilitated by a physician so that you can be sure of the information shared.

Learn ways to alleviate symptoms of tinnitus; as the more you understand the less it will bother you.