Tinnitus is referred to as a perception of sound without the presence of any external sounds. Patients often complain of hearing ringing or any other kinds of noises inside their ears. Tinnitus is quite a common problem with adults and affects about 15-20% of the entire population.
Tinnitus often isn’t a standalone problem; it is caused by an underlying issue. In most cases, hearing loss due to age, ear injuries, & circulatory problems cause Tinnitus. Tinnitus often improves with the treatment of the underlying issue. In other cases, sound-reducing & masking devices can also help.
Tinnitus signs & Symptoms:
Patients often experience Tinnitus as a ringing in the ears without the presence of any external sounds. But ringing isn’t the only sound associated with Tinnitus. Tinnitus patients also complain of hearing:
- Buzzing sound
- Roaring sound
- Clicking sound
- Hissing sounds
- Humming sound
Tinnitus patients often experience what’s called Subjective Tinnitus. In this, only the patients themselves can hear the Tinnitus sounds and nobody else. The Tinnitus sounds can also vary in pitch and loudness, & often range from low ringing voices to high pitched sounds. Patients can also experience Tinnitus in one or both ears.
Although Tinnitus is common, it may cause significant interference in patients’ everyday lives in some cases. They might find it difficult to hear other sounds when disturbed too much by the internal ringing.
Some patients might experience Tinnitus for some duration of time, while others might find that it comes & goes.
There is another kind of Tinnitus, called Pulsatile Tinnitus. In this, patients hear rhythmic pulsing or whooshing sounds to the beat of their own heartbeat. This sound can also be heard by others, making it a type of objective tinnitus.
There are multiple conditions that are associated with Tinnitus. It’s also possible that an exact cause isn’t found immediately.
Some common causes of tinnitus include:
The inner ear consists of tiny & delicate hair cells that move when you receive sound signals. These signals travel through the auditory nerve from the ear to the brain. The brain then processes these signals as sound. Sometimes, due to age or constantly hearing loud noises, this hair can be broken. This broken hair can send random electrical signals to the brain, causing a perception of sound even when there is none. This is also known as Tinnitus.
Ear infection or earwax accumulation
Sometimes, an ear infection or a blockage due to earwax accumulation can also lead to Tinnitus. In these cases, the blockage leads to a change in the pressure inside the ears. This causes feelings of Tinnitus.
Neck & head injuries:
Any kind of head & neck injury can cause damage to the auditory nerves of the inner ear. This can cause Tinnitus sounds in one ear.
Side effects of certain medications
Certain medications can also cause Tinnitus as a side effect. In this case, the intensity of the Tinnitus symptoms depends on the dosage of these medications. This kind of Tinnitus generally goes away when the medication is either reduced or stopped.
These medications include anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, certain antibiotics, drugs for cancer treatment, water pills(diuretics), antimalarial drugs, & antidepressants.
Some other Tinnitus causes include:
- Meniere’s Disease
- Changes in the ear bone
- Muscle spasms in the inner ear
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorders(TMJ)
- Acoustic Neuroma
- Other kinds of head & neck tumors
- Any kind of blood vessel disorders
- Some other chronic diseases
Your doctors can easily diagnose Tinnitus on the basis of your symptoms. They can give you a diagnosis of Tinnitus upon observing any Tinnitus signs that you might have been experiencing. Aside from this, they will also ask about your medical history and any recent illnesses or injuries you might have experienced.
They will also perform a head, neck, & ear examination.
Other tests include:
Your doctor will have you sit in a soundproof room while you wear headphones. You will then hear sounds in your ears, one at a time. They will then check if your results are normal for your age. Through these results, they will be able to determine if your hearing falls within the normal range for your age. The results will also help them understand the causes of your Tinnitus.
Your doctor might ask you to perform certain movements & actions to check the functioning of various muscle groups. These movements might include clenching your jaws, moving your neck, arms, & muscles, etc. Any tinnitus signs & symptoms during these actions will signify a problem with the relevant muscles.
CT scans & MRI:
Your doctor might also ask you to undergo CT scans & MRI to understand if there is something wrong with the structure of your ears, neck, & head. Sometimes, these structural abnormalities can also be Tinnitus causes.
Your doctor may also perform lab tests to understand if you’re suffering from any active infections & illnesses. Lab tests may also reveal certain conditions like autoimmune disease & cancer, which can also help them understand the causes of your issues better.
Tinnitus treatment usually consists of treating the underlying issue. In most cases, Tinnitus usually goes away once the underlying condition is resolved.
Some common tinnitus treatment methods include:
Removing accumulated earwax
Removing any excess earwax can help most Tinnitus cases. Especially when earwax accumulation also causes hearing problems and waterlogging inside the ears.
Treating circulatory issues
Blood vessel disorders may also be tinnitus causes for some people. These can usually be treated with the help of medications, surgery, & some other treatment methods.
The use of hearing aids
Hearing Aids can also help in Tinnitus treatment. In most cases, it is seen that the better a patient is able to hear, the less likely they are to experience their Tinnitus signs and symptoms.
Switching up your medications
If your medications are a tinnitus cause, changing them or reducing their dosages can also help. This can be an effective Tinnitus treatment for some people who might be experiencing Tinnitus as a side effect of their medications.
Noise masking machines
Noise masking machines that help reduce the level of tinnitus noise, may also be helpful. Patients might opt to wear these the entire day or for some hours. Depending on their exact symptoms & intensity, noise-masking machines might aid in tinnitus treatment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT)
CBT is a well-known behavioural therapy used to treat patients with several mental disorders. It has also shown a lot of promise in tinnitus treatment. It works by helping patients adapt to their condition with certain techniques.
CBT helps patients live a better quality of life by teaching them certain ways to adapt to their condition and deal with it in a better way.
In addition, certain medications might also be helpful in reducing the severity of tinnitus symptoms. These work depending on your particular case & medical history.