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What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus which is often referred to as ringing in the ears is the perception of soundin your ears or head when there’s no external sound present. The “ringing” can be in the form of hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping, clicking, etc. The sound can be constant or intermittent and it could also be different in each of your ears. The sound may range from low to unbearable. There currently is no cure for tinnitus, but it can be managed by treating the underlying cause or by changing the patient’s reaction to it. There are lots of factors affecting the success of tinnitus treatment. Some factors are how long the patient has had tinnitus, health factors, and the cause of the patient’s tinnitus.

How common is tinnitus?

In the United it is estimated that there are 50 million people with tinnitus, but only 16 million of them severe enough to seek medical treatment. There are 2 million cases of patients who are unable to live normal lives because of their tinnitus condition. The reason for the vast number of people with tinnitus is due to noise; and today’s environment is louder than it has ever been in the past.

What causes tinnitus?

Through research we have learned that sound is detected by the ear and processed by the brain. We have yet to learn the exact physiological cause(s) of tinnitus. Listed below are some of the known causes of tinnitus.

-       Noise exposure: Loud noise damages hair cells in the inner ear and once these cells are damaged they can’t be renewed or replaced.

-        Head and neck trauma: A symptom from head and neck trauma could be tinnitus. Other symptoms of head and neck trauma are headaches, vertigo, and memory loss.

-       Tinnitus could be a symptom from the disorders listed below and treating the disorder itself could relieve the tinnitus experienced by the patient. Hypo- or hyperthyroidism, Meniere’s disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and thoracic outlet syndrome.

-       Certain types of tumors

-       Wax build-up

-       Jaw misalignment

-       Cardiovascular disease

Ototoxicity: Tinnitus may be a side effect of some of some medications. These side effects could be temporary or permanent and it also depends on dosage amount. So make sure your doctor knows about your tinnitus condition before you take any medication. Drugwatch.com and the Physicians Desktop Reference are two websites where you can learn about drug interactions.

-       Pulsatile tinnitus: This form of tinnitus will sound like rhythmic pulsing in the ear usually in tune with one’s heartbeat. It is a rare form of tinnitus caused by the following conditions: abnormal blood flow in arteries or veins close to the inner ear, brain tumors, or irregularities in the brain structure.

What are the steps I should take when I believe I might have tinnitus?

Once you believe that you have tinnitus then you should immediately contact an audiologist, otologist or otolaryngologist. They should examine you to find if the cause of your tinnitus is from a treatable medical condition. Always remember that because tinnitus is caused by so many factors you could naturally have a reduction in your level of noise without receiving any treatment.

Possible treatments for tinnitus

-       Amplification (Hearing Aids):  The use of hearing aids may bring back the ambient sounds which in turn will help the patient to mask their tinnitus. Some patients with hearing loss have noticed they experienced relief from tinnitus while they wore hearing aids.

-       Alternative Treatments: The following is a list of therapies that helped some patients to receive tinnitus relief, but research could not conclusively identify that the therapy aided in any tinnitus relief. Magnesium, zinc, ginkgo biloba, homeopathic remedies, vitamin B, acupuncture, magnets, hyperbaric oxygen, & hypnosis.

-       Biofeedback: This is a relaxation technique that tries to change the body’s reaction to stress. It teaches the patient to control their involuntary body functions. Some examples of involuntary body functions are pulse, and muscle tension. Patients noticed a reduction in their tinnitus when they could adjust their reaction to stress in their lives.

-       Cochlear Implants/Electrical Stimulation: The cochlear implant will allow you to hear more ambient sounds which will mask the tinnitus. The implant will also send electrical stimulation through the auditory nerve which could help in tinnitus relief.  

-       Cognitive Therapy: The goal of this therapy is to alter the patient’s perception of tinnitus. This will help the patient not to fixate on the negative aspects of tinnitus, but rather to focus on the positive outcomes in coping with your ailment. Cognitive therapy works best when combined with masking or medication treatments.

-       Sound Therapy: Sound is used to partially or completely cover the tinnitus with the use of both wearable and non-wearable devices. This treatment is referred to as masking and should always be combined with counseling.

-       Drug Therapy: Researchers have been testing drugs for tinnitus treatment, but no drug has been specifically formulated to treat tinnitus. Here is a list of the types of drugs that researchers have been testing: anti-anxiety drugs, antihistamines, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and even anesthetics.

-       TMJ Treatment: A possible symptom of TMJ is tinnitus. This is because the muscles and nerves in the jaw are closely connected to the ear causing them to hinder the ear’s nerves. A dental treatment or bite realignment could relieve the TMJ pain and the accompanying tinnitus.

What could make tinnitus more prominent?

  • Loud Noise
  • Aspirin
  • Coffee
  • Nicotine
  • Antibiotics
  • Quinine
  • Medications

How can I help myself cope with my tinnitus condition?

Your level of tinnitus can be affected by all sorts of variables throughout your daily life. These variables can increase or decrease the amount of noise you are experiencing in your ears. Things such as a change in diet, exercise, and stress can all affect the degree of tinnitus you are experiencing. Talk with your audiologist about some of the things that might help you to cope with your tinnitus.

Are you tired of the endless ringing in your ears? Come find out how we can help you. Call us at (985) 446-8328. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff will be happy to assist you.