Tinnitus

Tinnitus (sometimes called “head noises” or “ear ringing”) is a condition in which a person experiences ringing, buzzing, clicking, roaring or hissing in their ears. This condition is not curable, however; treatment options are available to help patients obtain tinnitus relief.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Most tinnitus occurs due to damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear. The health of these nerve endings is important for acute hearing, and injury to them brings on hearing loss and often tinnitus. If you are older, advancing age is generally accompanied by a certain amount of hearing-nerve impairment (hearing loss) and tinnitus. If you are younger, exposure to loud noise is the leading cause of tinnitus, and often damages hearing as well. Tinnitus may also be caused by allergies, high or low blood pressure (blood circulation problems), a tumor, diabetes, thyroid problems, injury to the head or neck, and a variety of other causes including medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, sedatives, antidepressants, and aspirin. If you take aspirin and are experiencing tinnitus, talk to your doctor about your dosage.

Subjective Tinnitus

There are many causes for “subjective tinnitus,” the noise only you can hear. Some causes are not serious (a small plug of wax in the ear canal might cause temporary tinnitus). Tinnitus can also be a symptom of stiffening of the middle ear bones (otosclerosis).

Tinnitus may also be caused by allergies, high or low blood pressure (blood circulation problems), a tumor, diabetes, thyroid problems, injury to the head or neck, and a variety of other causes including medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, sedatives, antidepressants, and aspirin. If you take aspirin and your ears ring, talk to your doctor about dosage in relation to your size.

Treatment

In some cases, there is no specific treatment for tinnitus. If your ENT physician finds a specific cause for your tinnitus, he may be able to eliminate the noise. However, this determination may require additional testing including an MRI, or a hearing evaluation.  Unless additional testing identifies an abnormality, cause of tinnitus often cannot be identified. Occasionally, medicine may help to treat the noise. The medications used are varied, and should be discussed with your doctor.

The following list of DOs and DON’Ts can help lessen the severity of tinnitus:

  • Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises.
  • Get your blood pressure checked.
  • Decrease your intake of salt. Salt impairs blood circulation.
  • Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola and tobacco.
  • Exercise daily to improve your circulation.
  • Get adequate rest and avoid fatigue.
  • Stop worrying about the noise. Recognize your tinnitus as an annoyance and learn to ignore it as much as possible.
  • Use maskers or sound machines.