Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears or head where no external source is present. Many people describe it as a “ringing in the ears.” The actual sound experienced by the individual can be ringing, hissing, buzzing, roaring, or whistling. There are two types of tinnitus, subjective tinnitus and objective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus are sounds only you can hear. Objective tinnitus are sounds that are audible to other people as well as the individual. These sounds can be recorded using a microphone.
Tinnitus is a common condition that affects about 1 in 5 people. The effect on the patient ranges from a slight annoyance to debilitating. Most people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. The exact physiological cause of tinnitus are not known, however there are several likely sources which are known to trigger or worsen tinnitus.
Noise exposure can damage and even destroy hair cells in the inner ear. Once this happens the hair cells do not grow back and hearing loss is the result. Tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss especially when the loss is due to damage in the cochlea. Trauma to the head or neck, certain types of tumors, cardiovascular disease, and even wax buildup can all trigger tinnitus. Ototoxic drugs are certain medications that are toxic to the ear, which in turn can cause tinnitus. There are other medications that can cause tinnitus as a side effect but do not damage the inner ear.
Currently there is no cure for tinnitus, however in some cases tinnitus can be effectively managed by addressing the underlying causes. For people with hearing loss and tinnitus, a hearing aid can in many cases address both of these concerns. A properly fitted hearing aid will not lower or change the sound of the tinnitus but can help mask it out by amplifying other sounds. This causes the brain to pay less attention to the tinnitus and more attention to the natural sounds experienced in everyday life. It’s very similar to a tinnitus patient not noticing the ringing in their ears when they are in a noisy room. The brain has other things to concentrate on.
We have 25+ years of experience helping people with hearing loss and tinnitus. If you suffer from tinnitus and are looking for tinnitus relief, please call our office to schedule an appointment. We will start with a consultation and hearing test to determine if there is a hearing loss. Our approach is then to educate you regarding your options and include you in the entire process.