Tinnitus (ti-NIGHT-us or TINN-a-tus) is also known as "ringing in the ears;" however, it can manifest as whistling, buzzing, hissing, roaring, swooshing, clicking, and many other sounds. Regardless of the sound, it can be extremely bothersome. It's also common. According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately one in five people experience Tinnitus at some point in their lives. More than 90% of those experiencing Tinnitus also have hearing loss.
In general, there are two types of Tinnitus:
- Subjective Tinnitus: Noises perceived by the patient only. This type of Tinnitus primarily results from auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, but it can also be caused by other health conditions. More than 99% of cases reported are subjective.
- Objective Tinnitus: Noises that can be heard by the patient, as well as others. These noises typically are produced by blood flow or the body's musculoskeletal systems.
CAUSES OF TINNITUS
Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying health condition; it's not a health disorder. It can be temporary or ongoing and is usually a reaction in the brain to damage in the ear and auditory system. Although there are many health disorders that cause Tinnitus, here are some of the most common:
- Hearing Loss - This is the most common cause of Tinnitus, whether it's age-related or noise-induced hearing loss.
- Obstructions in the Outer and Middle Ear - Excessive ear wax, fluid, congestion, or foreign objects
- Head and Neck Trauma
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder - Damage to the muscles, ligaments or cartilage of the TMJ, where the lower jaw connects to the skull in front of the ears
- Sinus Pressure
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - One of the major causes of Tinnitus among our military and veterans.
- Ototoxic Drugs, including Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), certain antibiotics, cancer medications and diuretics. In some cases, stopping the medication will cause the Tinnitus symptoms to improve; however, this is a decision that must be made with a medical professional.
- Certain Medical Conditions, such as Hypo- and Hyperthyroidism, Anemia, Lyme's Disease, Fibromyalgia, High Blood Pressure, Depression, Anxiety and Ménière's Disease
We use the word "management" because, unfortunately, there is currently no scientific cure for most types of Tinnitus. However, there are good, well-established tools and treatments that can significantly reduce the burden. Our most effective method is working with patients to identify an underlying health disorder to treat. This could be as simple as removing excess earwax, treating an ear infection, changing medications, or fitting patients with hearing aids if hearing loss is detected.
If you are experiencing Tinnitus, please feel free to give us a call. We will be happy to consult with you and determine the next steps. In the meantime, it may help for you to read from others who have lived with Tinnitus (including William Shatner) so you understand you are not in this alone.