Hearing loss and sexually transmitted diseasesJanuary 27, 2022
Epilepsy and your ears…January 31, 2022
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus (pronounced ti-ni-tus), or ringing in the ears, is the sensation of hearing ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping, whistling, or other sounds. The noise can be intermittent or continuous, and can vary in loudness. It is often worse when background noise is low, so you may be most aware of it at night when you’re trying to fall asleep in a quiet room. In rare cases, the sound beats in sync with your heart (pulsatile tinnitus).
Tinnitus is very common, affecting an estimated 50 million adults in the U.S. For most people, the condition is merely an annoyance. In severe cases, however, tinnitus can cause people to have difficulty concentrating and sleeping. It may eventually interfere with work and personal relationships, resulting in psychological distress.
Although tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, it does not cause the loss. In some cases they even become so acutely sensitive to sound (hyperacusis) that they must take steps to muffle or mask external noises.
Some instances of tinnitus are caused by infections or blockages in the ear, and the tinnitus can disappear once the underlying cause is treated. Sometimes, however, tinnitus continues after the underlying condition is treated. In such a case, other therapies -may bring significant relief by either decreasing or covering up the unwanted sound.
Prolonged exposure to loud sounds is the most common cause of tinnitus. Up to 90% of people with tinnitus have some level of noise-induced hearing loss. The noise causes permanent damage to the sound-sensitive cells of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear. Carpenters, pilots, rock musicians, street-repair workers, and landscapers are among those whose jobs put them at risk, as are people who work with chain saws, guns, or other loud devices or who repeatedly listen to loud music. A single exposure to a sudden extremely loud noise can also cause tinnitus.
A variety of other conditions and illnesses can lead to tinnitus, including:
- Blockages of the ear due to a buildup of wax, an ear infection, or rarely, a benign tumor of the nerve that allows us to hear (auditory nerve)
- Certain drugs — most notably aspirin, several types of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, loop diuretics, and antidepressants, as well as quinine medications; tinnitus is cited as a potential side effect for about 200 prescription and nonprescription drugs.
- The natural aging process, which can cause deterioration of the cochlea or other parts of the ear
- Meniere’s disease, which affects the inner part of the ear
- Otosclerosis, a disease that results in stiffening of the small bones in the middle ear
- Other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, circulatory problems, anemia, allergies, an underactive thyroid gland, autoimmune disease, and diabetes
- Neck or jaw problems, such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome
- Injuries to the head and neck
Tinnitus can worsen in some people if they drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, drink caffeinated beverages, or eat certain foods. For reasons not yet entirely clear to researchers, stress and fatigue seem to worsen tinnitus.
Do You Have Tinnitus?
How do you know if you have it? Ask yourself these questions.
Do you hear a noise that people around you don’t hear? When you have tinnitus, you’re the only one who notices the ringing, buzzing, or other noise. Other people don’t.
Do you take medication? More than 200 drugs can cause tinnitus, especially when you start or stop taking them. These include pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen, as well as certain antibiotics, diuretics, aspirin, and chemotherapy medicines. The form that tinnitus takes can vary, depending on the drug and its dose. Don’t stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor first.
Are you around loud sounds? Lots of blaring noises where you live or work can cause hearing loss that triggers tinnitus. Those sounds could include roaring machines, lawn equipment, concerts, and sporting events. Tinnitus can build up over the years or stem from a single loud event, like an engine backfire. Stay away from loud noises if you can. If you can’t, wear ear protection. And turn that music down.
Do you get migraines? These headaches come with throbbing pain, nausea, and light sensitivity. But they also can have ear-related symptoms like fullness, muffled hearing, and tinnitus.
Have you ever had a serious head or neck injury? Either can cause problems with your nerves, blood flow, and muscles. That can lead to tinnitus, which often comes with headaches and memory issues when it’s linked to head or neck trauma.
Do you have jaw problems? Sometimes, tinnitus is caused by temporomandibular disorder (TMD), a group of conditions that affect jaw movement. Damage to any of the muscles, ligaments, or cartilage in that area can lead to the hearing problem. Easing TMD symptoms should help.
How Is Tinnitus Treated?
How to Talk With Your Audiologist About Tinnitus
Learning about tinnitus can help you manage it. Ask your audiologist these questions so you better understand your condition.
- Can you tell what’s causing my tinnitus?
- Will it go away on its own?
- Can other people hear the noise in my ears?
- Will tinnitus damage my hearing?
- Does having tinnitus mean I have hearing loss?
You may want to ask your audiologist these questions to learn about your treatment options:
- What are the treatments for tinnitus?
- Are there any risks or side effects from the treatment?
- What can I do on my own to manage tinnitus?
- How can I stop tinnitus from getting worse?
Contact us if you are experiencing tinnitus!
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