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If you are suffering from annoying constant or intermittent sounds in one or both of your ears you are probably suffering from tinnitus. You are not alone, millions of Americans are suffering from tinnitus. Tinnitus can be anywhere from a low roar to a high squeal.
To receive the correct treatment, you must undergo a thorough evaluation by an ENT Specialist.
What are the causes of tinnitus?
Tinnitus is usually the result of damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve within the inner ear. The nerve endings are essential for hearing acute sounds and any damage to them typically results in tinnitus. Two of the most common causes of tinnitus are aging and exposure to loud noises. A certain amount of hearing nerve impairment can occur as people begin to get older and this can lead to tinnitus. In younger people however, the leading cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises.
“Subjective Tinnitus” or the noise only you can hear, can also be caused by a number of factors including a small plug of earwax in the ear canal or stiffening of the middle ear bones. Stiffening of the inner can be a symptom of otosclerosis.
Every case of tinnitus is different and may require different types of treatment. So, it is important to be evaluated by an otolaryngologist that can come up with a treatment plan that works for you.
Can tinnitus be treated?
There isn't a specific treatment plan for most cases of tinnitus but if your otolaryngologist finds a specific cause they may be able to eliminate the noise. However, most of the time a specific cause can’t be identified. This means that the best course of action for most cases of tinnitus is just managing the symptoms. Some treatment options include:
- Alternative treatments
- Amplifications (hearing aids)
- Cochlear implants or electrical stimulation
- Cognitive therapy
- Drug therapy
- Sound therapy
- TMJ treatment
Are other people hearing the noises in my ear?
While people are not normally able to hear the tinnitus in their ears, they may hear something called “objective tinnitus.” Objective tinnitus is caused by either abnormalities in the blood vessels around the ear or by muscle spasms. It typically sounds like a cracking inside the middle ear.
Are my children at risk for getting tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a common complaint among children but they are at risk for it. Like all other people, children who are constantly exposed to loud noises are more at risk than other children. To prevent this children should wear hearing protection devices at high-decibel events, like concerts, car races, or sports games.
How can I lessen the severity of tinnitus?
- Get adequate rest
- Avoid exposure to loud sounds
- Get your blood pressure checked regularly
- Decrease salt intake because salt impairs circulation
- Avoid stimulants (Coffee, tea, cola, tobacco)
- Exercise daily to improve circulation
- Stop worrying about the noise and over time, learn to ignore it as best as you can.
How can I cope?
Mental exercises like concentration and relaxation can help you to control the muscle groups and circulation in your body. In some patients, this increase in circulation helps to reduce the severity of their tinnitus.
Using other noises to mask the sounds of tinnitus has also been helpful in some cases. Constant low level sounds like a ticking clock or white noise may make the noise less noticeable.
Hearing aids may also help to reduce the head noise and can even cause it to go away temporarily. However, if you suffer from hearing loss it is important to not set the hearing aid too high because this may lead to worse tinnitus symptoms. It is advised that you undergo a thorough trial before the purchase of a hearing aid.
Tinnitus maskers may also be helpful and can be combined with hearing aids. The masker emits a pleasant sound to distract you from the head noise. In some cases, tinnitus maskers may even help to suppress the noise for several hours.
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This information comes from the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Inc., and the Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, Inc. and is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be considered a substitute for a consultation with an Otolaryngologist.