Tinnitus

Tinnitus is described as ringing in the ears. It is the perception of sound in the ears or head where no external source is present.This common problem is a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as circulatory system disorder, ear injury or  age-related hearing loss. Tinnitus can  get worse with age and better with treatment.

TYPES

Objective tinnitus : This is the type your doctor can hear when he examines you. This type is rare and may be caused by a blood vessel problem an inner ear bone condition or muscle contractions.

Subjective tinnitus : This is the type only you can hear. It is the most common type and usually caused by outer, middle or inner ear problems. Problems with  the hearing (auditory) nerves or the part of your brain that interprets nerve signals as sound can also result in this type.

CAUSES

Tinnitus is not a disease. It is a symptom that there is something wrong with the auditory system. This includes the  ear, the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain and the parts of the brain that process sound. Some health conditions that may cause ringing in the ear includes :

  • ear and sinus infection
  • noise induced hearing loss
  • brain tumors
  • Meniere’s disease
  • hormonal changes in women
  • thyroid abnormalities
  • heart and blood vessel diseases
  • medications such as cancer medications, diuretics and antibiotics

RISK FACTORS

Factors that can increase your risk for this condition includes :

  • exposure to louder voice
  • older age
  • being male
  • being a smoker
  • having cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of Tinnitus includes these types of phantom noises in your ears

  • ringing
  • hissing
  • clicking
  • roaring
  • buzzing

The pitch of these noises may range from high to low. It may happen in one or both ears.

TEST AND DIAGNOSIS

The following test will help doctors diagnose this ear condition.

Hearing exam : This test will help rule out or identify possible causes of tinnitus. You will be asked to  sit in a sound proof room wearing earphones through which will be played specific sounds into one ear at a time. You will be asked to indicate when you hear a sound and results are compared with results considered normal for your age.

Movement : You will be asked to  move your eyes, clench your jaw or move your neck, arms and legs. Your doctor will then determine tinnitus changes or worsens.

Imaging tests :You may have a   CT scan and MRI  depending on the underlying cause of your condition.

TREATMENT

The first treatment of tinnitus is to find out the underlying cause and treat it. These include

  • removal earwax
  • treating heart or blood vessel diseases
  • changing medications

You doctor may also recommend using an electronic noise suppression device. These include

  • hearing aid if you are having hearing problems
  • white noise machines which produce simulated environmental sounds such as falling rain or ocean waves
  • masking device which produce a continuous, low-level white noise that suppresses tinnitus symptoms
  • tinnitus restraining which is a device that  delivers individually programmed tonal music to mask the specific frequencies of the tinnitus you experience

Medication that may relieve symptoms of the ear condition includes

  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline
  • Alprazolam (Niravam, Xanax)

COMPLICATIONS

Complications of tinnitus includes

  • memory loss
  • sleep problems
  • trouble concentrating
  • anxiety
  • stress
  • depression

PREVENTION

Take these precautions to prevent ringing in the ears

Wear hearing protection.

Turn volume down.

Take care of any underlying cardiovascular disease.

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