Tinnitus (literally "ringing" in Latin) is characterized by ringing, buzzing, or noises that originate in the ear or the head, and can cause discomfort and stress. 94% of people will experience tinnitus at some point in their life.
Though this condition is usually not dangerous, it can be a symptom of another health problem or underlying condition. Tinnitus can cause so many stressful side effects, including fatigue, sleep problems, concentration difficulty, memory problems, depression, anxiety, and irritability. Though it's not necessarily serious, it can be quite debilitating.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus may have several underlying causes. Your doctor may begin investigating the condition by first finding out what kind of tinnitus you suffer from. There are two general types of tinnitus: subjective and objective tinnitus.
Subjective tinnitus means that only you can hear the noise or ringing in your ears. Objective tinnitus means that it may be possible for your Doctor of Audiology or physician to also hear the noise or ringing while performing an exam.
Tinnitus can be caused by a number of things from certain medications to a variety of health problems. Your Doctor of Audiology will take a detailed history of your health and medications, perform a thorough examination, and possibly order a hearing test or or conduct other tests of the auditory system.
Possible causes of tinnitus include:
- Hearing loss
- Exposure to loud noise and hair cell death
- Earwax buildup or blockages
- Abnormal bone growth in the ear
- Stress and depression
- Eustachian tube disorder
- TMJ issues or head and neck injuries
- Long-term aspirin use
- Other pathologies: otosclerosis, otitis media, autoimmune disorders, sudden hearing loss, acoustic neuroma, Meniere's disease, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular or neurological problem, etc.
In some cases, the exact cause of the tinnitus may not be found but serious underlying conditions can be ruled out.
How is Tinnitus Treated?
Tinnitus may be treated by addressing the underlying condition. It is important to note that there is not one treatment that will work for each individual.
Sound therapy is a common treatment option that can help lessen the severity of tinnitus. Sound therapy involves the use of a sound-generating device as part of an overall program designed by your Doctor of Audiology that includes informational counseling and other activities to help ease the stress of tinnitus. Sound therapy includes an individual regimen of listening to specific sounds such as soothing tones or customized music through headphones to help re-focus the auditory system.
Depending on the individual case, some alternate medical treatments may include:
- Dietary restrictions
- Homeopathic remedies
- Cranial-sacral therapy
- Hyperbaric oxygen
In general, tinnitus treatments may not make the tinnitus disappear completely, but they may make it less noticeable and ease your stress and anxiety from it. Speak with your Doctor of Audiology about the best tinnitus treatment option for you.