Though the common misconception about tinnitus is that it’s a disease, tinnitus is actually a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears that can only be heard by the affected individual.
Many who suffer from tinnitus describe the annoying sound as ringing in the ear, but a whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing sound is also possible. For some, these sounds come and go. But most are not that lucky, and will experience symptoms 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
These phantom sounds may cause only a slight annoyance, or they may severely disrupt everyday life. The American Tinnitus Association estimates more than 50 million Americans suffer from at least occasional bouts of tinnitus.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Most commonly, tinnitus is a side effect/symptom of underlying hearing loss. In some cases, exposure to loud noise for a prolonged period of time may be a significant factor, which could mean your hearing may be temporarily or permanently damaged, depending upon the severity of the sound.
We can’t always tell whether your temporary damage will become permanent, but tinnitus is usually representative of an inner-ear problem. Tinnitus research is ongoing, and the mechanisms that cause tinnitus in the brain and inner ear are being more closely studied. Some possible causes are:
Exposure to loud noise
Jaw joint disorders
In rare cases, tinnitus may be caused by a blood vessel disorder, resulting in pulsatile tinnitus. This type of tinnitus may be caused by a head or neck tumor, a buildup of cholesterol in the circulatory system, high blood pressure, turbulent blood flow, or malformation of the capillaries surrounding the ear. The result is a tinnitus that sends out pulsing signals in conjunction with the flow of your heartbeat.
Is There a Cure?
Despite advertising that you may see, there is not a magic pill or treatment to make tinnitus go away. Depending on the root cause of your tinnitus, sound therapies and relaxation methods can help reduce the bothersome nature of tinnitus. If you have any degree of hearing loss in conjunction with tinnitus, treating your hearing loss can often help reduce the impact of your tinnitus.
What Are the Treatment Options for Tinnitus?
Because your tinnitus symptoms are personal and unique in nature, an in-depth evaluation will help us create a specialized treatment plan for you.
Although there isn’t a single cure for tinnitus, our Doctors of Audiology have the knowledge and experience to provide you with treatment methods that can help lessen the impact that tinnitus has on your life. In many cases, the distressing combination of tinnitus and hearing loss can be relieved with prescriptive hearing devices. We can prescribe and fit hearing aids, which includes our support and expertise through the course of your treatment plan.
The No. 1 treatment for tinnitus for those who also experience hearing loss is the use of prescriptive hearing devices, which can improve your hearing and often reduce or eliminate your perception of tinnitus.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there medications for tinnitus?
Almost all of the “surefire” remedies for tinnitus found on the internet are based on junk science, case studies, or no real evidence at all. But there are some things you can try that might help lessen symptoms, including: limiting exposure to loud noises, lowering your blood pressure, ingesting less salt, and limiting exposure to alcohol.
Can tinnitus be directly measured?
Our audiologists will perform additional testing to try to measure the noises you hear in your head, which is known as “subjective tinnitus.” There is an extremely rare form of tinnitus referred to as “objective tinnitus” that your doctor can hear. This is typically the result of a blood vessel problem, an inner-ear bone condition, or muscle contractions.
Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?
No. Tinnitus is a symptom of any number of conditions, including hearing loss.
Why is tinnitus worse at night?
In our daily lives, sounds around us typically mask tinnitus to some degree. At night, when things are quiet, there’s less noise and fewer mental distractions. If your tinnitus is stress related, it’s also possible that the cumulative stress of your day has made your symptoms worse.