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Tinnitus

Are you hearing things?

It’s important to investigate the source of your tinnitus so the underlying condition can be treated

Are you hearing things? Do your ears ring (or buzz or roar or hiss)? That ringing in your ears is called tinnitus, and a sign that the hairs in the inner ear might be damaged. Tinnitus isn’t usually harmful, but it is generally a symptom of an underlying condition.

 

It’s important to investigate the source of your tinnitus so the underlying condition can be treated, especially when the ringing in your ear doesn’t go away after a week or it has come on suddenly and is accompanied by dizziness or hearing loss.

 

Common Causes

 

The most common reasons people develop tinnitus are related to these causes:

  • Age-related hearing loss (usually beginning at about age 60).

  • Exposure to loud noise (whether on-the-job or at a rock concert).

  • Earwax build-up.

  • Otosclerosis (stiffening of the bones in the middle ear)

 

Other causes are related to underlying health conditions. It’s essential to determine if you have any of these conditions so you can receive the treatment you need and not simply address the tinnitus:

Meniere's Disease
TMJ Disorders
Muscle Spasms
Acoustic Neuroma
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Other causes

 

There are times that your tinnitus isn’t just in your head. When your physician can also actually hear the ringing in your ear, you have a rare form of tinnitus called pulsatile tinnitus. This type of tinnitus is caused by blood vessel disorders, such as:

  • Atherosclerosis

  • Head and neck tumors

  • High blood pressure

 

Certain medications are also known to cause or worsen tinnitus. The usual culprits include some but not all of these types of drugs:

  • Antibiotics

  • Antidepressants

  • Cancer medications

  • Diuretics

 

Even some herbal supplements can affect your tinnitus, along with caffeine and nicotine.

 

Diagnosing and treating tinnitus

 

In addition to a hearing test, you could be asked to make simple movements, such as moving your neck, arms, and legs to clench your jaw. If your tinnitus changes with one of these movements, it helps to identify the underlying condition.

 

You might also be asked to describe the specific sounds you hear. For example, if you hear clicking rather than ringing in your ear, your tinnitus could be caused by muscle contractions in or around your ear. Other sounds include:
 

A heartbeat sound can point toward a problem with high blood pressure, an aneurysm or a tumor.
Low-pitched ringing can indicate Meniere’s disease.
High-pitched ringing typically indicates exposure to loud noises.

 

Imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans, can be useful in diagnosing suspected causes behind your tinnitus.

 

Treating tinnitus

 

When an underlying cause for your tinnitus is isolated, you will need to be treated for it. That could mean

medication for high blood pressure or surgery to remove a tumor.

 

Even when underlying causes have been treated, tinnitus can persist. Treatments to reduce the noise include:

  • Removing impacted earwax

  • Switching medications if possible

  • Using a white noise machine or masking device

 

Seeking answers

 

Ringing in your ears can be more than simply annoying. It can indicate a serious underlying condition. When the ringing doesn’t go away, call to consult with us.