Tinnitus (pronounced ti-ni-tus), is most often characterized as a ringing in the ears sensation. The noise can also sound like buzzing, whooshing, chirping, whistling, or other sounds.
The noise can be intermittent or continuous, and can vary in loudness and pitch. It is often worse in a quiet environment, so you may be most aware of it at night when you’re trying to fall asleep.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of the most common health conditions we face in this country. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that approximately 10 percent of the U.S. adult population — over 25 million Americans, experience some form of tinnitus.
For most people, the condition is simply an annoyance. People with severe cases of tinnitus, however, may have difficulty concentrating and sleeping. In these cases it may eventually interfere with work and personal relationships, causing psychological distress.
There are two types of tinnitus:
- Subjective Tinnitus is characterized by noises that are perceived only by the patient. In addition to auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, subjective tinnitus can be caused by a number of other factors. Subjective tinnitus accounts for more than 99% of all reported cases.
- Objective Tinnitus is head or ear noises that others can hear, as well as the patient. These sounds are usually produced by internal functions in the body’s circulatory (blood flow) and somatic (musculoskeletal movement) systems. Only 1% of all tinnitus cases are objective.
What are Common Causes of Tinnitus?
The most common cause of tinnitus is prolonged exposure to loud sounds. Up to 90% of people with tinnitus have some level of noise-induced hearing loss. The noise causes permanent damage to the sound-sensitive cells of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear.
Individuals who work as carpenters, rock musicians, street-repair workers, and landscapers are among those whose jobs put them at risk, as well as people who work with chainsaws, guns, or other loud devices or who repeatedly listen to loud music. A single exposure to a sudden extremely loud noise can also cause tinnitus.
Tinnitus can also be caused by other conditions and illnesses, including:
- Certain drugs – Including aspirin, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, loop diuretics, some types of antidepressants, and quinine medications; about 200 prescription and nonprescription medications have been linked to tinnitus.
- Age related hearing loss – As people age, their hearing often deteriorates, typically beginning around age 60. This type of hearing loss is normally bilateral (in both ears) and includes the sensory loss of high-frequency sounds.
- Meniere’s disease – Meniere’s disease is a disorder that affects the organs of the inner part of the ear.
- Diabetes – Diabetes can lead to tinnitus for a few reasons. The lack of blood flow that is common with diabetes can cause tinnitus. Additionally, the elevated blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can contribute to tinnitus symptoms
- Hormone changes – Hormonal fluctuations can also result in tinnitus. In women, periods of hormone variability can trigger or worsen tinnitus symptoms. PMS, menopause and pregnancy have all been shown to cause an increase in tinnitus.
- Head and neck injuries – These types of injuries can cause nerve, blood flow and muscles issues that can result in the feeling of tinnitus. Research shows that people with tinnitus related to head or neck injury tend to have a more severe case of tinnitus.
- Ear blockage – This can be caused by wax buildup, an ear infection, or a benign tumor of the nerve that transmits sound (the auditory nerve).
- Colds and sinus problems – The American Tinnitus Association reports that “Nasal congestion from a severe cold, flu, or sinus infection can create abnormal pressure in the middle ear, impacting normal hearing and causing tinnitus symptoms.”
Will My Tinnitus Go Away?
For most types of tinnitus, there is no scientifically validated cure. Identifying an underlying cause, such as high blood pressure or a neck injury, may help clinicians reduce or eliminate tinnitus. There are, however, treatment options that can ease the perceived burden of tinnitus, allowing patients to live more comfortable, productive lives.
What To Do About Your Tinnitus?
If you suffer from tinnitus whether it is due to a medical condition, structural damage, aging, or another factor, it can be extremely disruptive and frustrating. Many people deal with chronic, bothersome tinnitus, which can make daily life difficult and less enjoyable.
However, there are treatment options available for tinnitus that have proven effective over time. If you are living with tinnitus, the team at REM Audiology is here to help you find relief.
Contact Us Today!
If you’d like to discuss further, come in and meet the team at REM Audiology. Call us today on (888) 710-5734. Alternatively, click here to contact us online.