Tinnitus can be an annoying condition. It is described as a constant or intermittent ringing, whistling or buzzing sound in the ears in the absence of an external noise source. According to statistics from the American Tinnitus Association, more than 50 million people in the United States suffer from tinnitus.
Causes and concerns
Tinnitus can be caused by a number of different factors, from something as simple as earwax buildup to head trauma. Common causes include:
- Trauma to the ear, jaw or neck (being hit with a hard object, car accident, fall)
- Loud noise, such as an explosion or construction work
- Untreated and recurrent ear infections
- Loud music or noise for a prolonged period of time
- Certain medications
- Vascular disorders
Symptoms and signs
There are several kinds of tinnitus that produce symptoms and signs. Subjective tinnitus is a type of tinnitus where the person can hear sounds, but no one else can hear the sound. Another type of tinnitus is called objective tinnitus and is very rare. With this type, the doctor can also hear the sound while listening closely. Objective tinnitus is often caused by a vascular or muscular issue. This may be described by the patient and heard by the physician as a whooshing or squeaking sound.
People describe tinnitus in different ways; some people hear a low-pitched hum, while others hear a high-pitched ringing. Other sounds that can be either high or low-pitched include:
- Cricket chirping
Solutions and options
Tinnitus is not one of those conditions that can be treated at home. It is recommended that you see a physician specializing in ears and/or an audiologist to both evaluate and treat your tinnitus.. For many people, the cause of tinnitus is due to damage in the ear. In other cases, there is an underlying disease or condition that is causing it.
When you come into the office, the ear specialist will take a complete medical history, as well as perform a physical exam of the ears, neck and head to make sure there are no obvious injuries or underlying medical issues. Many times, a test called an audiogram may be ordered to check your hearing ability in both ears. Additionally, testing with CT scans or MRIs may also be necessary.
Treatment for tinnitus depends on the cause. In the unlikely event that it gets worse or one of the tests detects a tumor or vascular disorder, surgery may be necessary. Other options include:
- Hearing aids
- Prescription medications
- White noise (fan or humidifier) for distraction
- Music sound therapy
- Stress reduction
- Avoidance of caffeine and aspirin
Most people who suffer from tinnitus find ways to cope with the annoying noise and can go on living a normal life. Those who are extremely bothered by eventually find a treatment or a combination of treatments that help alleviate the symptoms. If you or someone you love has tinnitus, call today for an appointment with one of our caring ear specialists.