Tinnitus & Tinnitus Treatment
Tinnitus is the medical term for the perception of sound in one or both ears or in the head when no external sound is present. It is often referred to as “ringing in the ears,” although some people hear hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping or clicking. Tinnitus can be intermittent or constant-with single or multiple tones-and its perceived volume can range from subtle to shattering. 50 million people in the United States experience tinnitus to some degree. Of these, about 16 million have it severe enough tinnitus to seek medical attention and about two million patients are so seriously debilitated that they cannot function on a “normal,” day-to-day basis.
What Triggers Tinnitus?
Although there have been tremendous advances through research, the exact physiological cause or causes of tinnitus are not known. There are, however, several likely sources, all of which are known to trigger or worsen tinnitus.
- Noise exposure – Exposure to loud noises can damage and even destroy hair cells, called cilia, in the inner ear. Once damaged, these hair cells cannot be renewed or replaced.
- Head and neck trauma – Physical trauma to the head and neck can induce tinnitus. Other symptoms include headaches, vertigo, and memory loss.
- Certain disorders, such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, Meniere’s disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and thoracic outlet syndrome, can have tinnitus as a symptom. When tinnitus is a symptom of another disorder, treating the disorder can help alleviate the tinnitus.
- Certain types of tumors
- Wax build-up
- Jaw misalignment
- Cardiovascular disease
- Ototoxicity – Some medications are ototoxic, that is, the medications are harmful or damaging to the ear. Other medications will produce tinnitus as a side effect without damaging the inner ear. Effects, which can depend on the dosage of the medication, can be temporary or permanent. Before taking any medication, make sure that your prescribing physician is aware of your tinnitus, and discuss alternative medications that may be available.
- Pulsatile tinnitus – Rare type of tinnitus that sounds like a rhythmic pulsing in the ear, typically in time with one’s heartbeat. This kind of tinnitus can be caused by abnormal blood flow in arteries or veins close to the inner ear, brain tumors or irregularities in brain structure.
Although there presently is no cure, in some cases, tinnitus can be managed by treating the underlying cause or by altering reactions to it. It is important to note that treatment outcomes vary depending on the specific cause of tinnitus, how long a patient has had tinnitus and other competing health factors.
There are management strategies that are available to tinnitus sufferers. However it is important to note that these options do not work for everyone and do not work to the same degree for each individual patient. Your Elkhart Audiologist, Sharon Hirstein, understands that tinnitus can negatively affect your life, family and work. She has the skills to help evaluate your tinnitus and recommend management strategies to help you. She is a member of the American Tinnitus Association, the resource of the statistics and definitions above. You can access their site directly by visiting ata.org.