Tinnitus is a common patient complaint that is experienced by 10-15% of the adult population, which translates to about 50 million Americans. From 10 – 12 million of those seek medical
help for tinnitus. For most people who have tinnitus, the sound is constant or near constant. In severe cases, tinnitus can interfere with work and sleep. It can be associated with anxiety, depression and reduced perception of the quality of life.
Tinnitus is not a disease, but a symptom that can result from multiple conditions affecting the auditory system, which includes the ear, the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain, and the parts of the brain that process sound. There are many successful treatment options, when proper evaluation is completed. Evaluation begins with medical and audiologic assessment.
Causes and Concerns
Tinnitus can originate in one of four areas: the brain, inner ear, outer ear, and the middle you’re your treatment depends on the cause of your tinnitus. Common causes include:
- Trauma to the ear (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
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 involves a clicking sound that is pulsatile (meaning it accompanies your heartbeat).The last type is called objective tinnitus. With this type, the doctor can also hear the sound while listening closely.
People describe different sounds of ringing in the ears. 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. You have to see an ear specialist for evaluation and treatment. 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, Dr. Stark will do a physical exam of the ears, neck and head to make sure there are no obvious injuries. It is usually necessary for the audiologist to complete an audiogram. It is usually necessary for the audiologist to complete an audiogram 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 an aneurysm, surgery may be necessary. Other options include:
- Prescription medications
- White noise (fan or humidifier) for distraction
- 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 tinnitus eventually find a treatment or a combination of treatments that help to deal with it. If you or someone you love has tinnitus, call today for an appointment with one of our caring ear specialists.