Tinnitus Evaluation and Management
Why do I have this noise in my ears?
Tinnitus is a common complaint.
You can pronounce it as “tin-NY-tus” or “TIN-a-tus,” but it’s still a “noise in your ears.” And even though the precise cause of tinnitus is not always known, you are definitely not imagining those sounds of ringing, roaring, clicking, hissing, buzzing and whining in your ears.
Your tinnitus might be at a very low level, whereas someone else’s might be very loud. Some people complain that the sound in their ears is worse at night, probably because the sound is more noticeable when the surroundings are quiet. Some people also find that their tinnitus is worse when they are tired and stressed.
So, exactly what is Tinnitus?
Scientists still don’t agree about what happens in the brain to create the illusion of sound when there is none, but tinnitus itself is not a disease.
It’s a symptom of a change or problem in the auditory system, which includes the ear, the auditory nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain, and the parts of the brain that process sound. And although you “hear” the sounds in your ears, the source is actually somewhere in the neural circuits of your brain that interpret sounds as they come to our ears. 1
And what causes Tinnitus? 1, 2, 3
There are numerous conditions that can cause or accompany tinnitus.
- Side effects of medications - more than 200 drugs are known to cause tinnitus.
- TMJ - chronic temporomandibular joint disorders have been associated with tinnitus symptoms.
- Aging - tinnitus is sometimes the first sign of hearing loss as we age.
- Sudden loud sounds - from sources like bomb blasts, fireworks, and gunfire.
- Repetitive noise exposure - in occupations like factory workers, road crews, and even professional musicians. Medical conditions - anemia, high blood pressure, thyroid abnormalities, sinus infections, migraines.
- Substance use – smoking, lots of caffeine, alcohol.
And then, some people develop tinnitus for no obvious reason. Usually, tinnitus doesn’t signal a serious health problem, but persistent and loud tinnitus can lead to fatigue, inability to concentrate, anxiety or depression. 1
Are there treatments that can help me?
Tinnitus does not have a cure yet, and there is no one treatment. Our Hearing Center can help you find the best ways to manage and reduce your symptoms.
- Hearing aids - for people who have hearing loss along with tinnitus.
- Counseling - helps you learn how to live with your tinnitus.
- Sound generators – devices that emit soft, pleasant sounds, tones or music to help mask tinnitus noise.
- Acoustic neural stimulation - a relatively new technique delivers a broadband acoustic signal embedded in music to stimulate change in the neural circuits in the brain.
- Cochlear implants - for people who have tinnitus along with severe hearing loss, bypasses damage in the inner ear and sends electrical signals to directly stimulate the auditory nerve.
- Prescriptions medications - can improve your mood and ability to sleep.
Becoming better educated about tinnitus will equip you with better ideas and resources to deal with your specific symptoms. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) has educational brochures, videos, books, and articles. 3