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. Some people experience tinnitus that goes away on its own. Other individuals have symptoms that last 6 months or longer and interfere with their life.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can be heard in one or both sides of the head. The noises can sound like they are either from, within, or outside the head. Tinnitus sounds can include ringing, roaring, buzzing, clicking, beating, whooshing, whistling, humming, or other noises. The person may “hear” their tinnitus all the time, or only in certain situations. Tinnitus can hurt a person’s quality of life. Patients may experience symptoms at different levels of severity. Common patient complaints include difficulty sleeping, struggling to understand other’s speech, depression, and problems focusing. These experiences could lead to problems with both work and family life.

Causes and concerns

There are two types of tinnitus: Primary and Secondary. Primary tinnitus has an unknown cause. It is typically linked with hearing loss, but other factors may also play a role. Secondary tinnitus has a specific known cause. It may be such things like impacted ear wax, diseases, or pressure behind the ear drum.  Secondary tinnitus can also be related to Meniere’s disease or ear nerve conditions. Tinnitus can be caused by more unusual or serious conditions. Some of these rare conditions include tumors, heart problems, or blood vessel problems.

A list of common causes for tinnitus besides hearing loss 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
  • Aging

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
  • Biofeedback
  • 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.