Although many people are familiar with the term tinnitus, few people really understand what the condition involves. Often, people assume that tinnitus simply refers to a ringing sound in the ears, but the condition can be far more varied than this.

Tinnitus causes patients to hear sounds which don’t originate from an outside source. Although this can take the form of ringing, it can also present as a buzzing, whooshing, clicking or humming sound. In some cases, patients may even report that they can hear what sounds like a heartbeat in their ears.

For some patients, the symptoms of tinnitus are present all the time, whereas, for others, the symptoms may come and go. Similarly, some patients may report that only one ear is affected, that tinnitus occurs in both ears or that the noise feels like it’s coming from inside their head. Keeping a symptom diary and identifying any factors which coincide with your symptoms can be helpful, so be sure to pass this information on your audiologist.

Getting a tinnitus diagnosis

Although tinnitus is not usually considered to be a serious or dangerous condition, it can have a considerable impact on patients. In some cases, the on-going symptoms can disrupt sleep patterns, interrupt concentration and prevent patients from carrying out their day-to-day activities. This can have a significant impact on your quality of life, so finding out what the problem is and getting your condition diagnosed is extremely important.

While tinnitus isn’t usually associated with any dangerous medical conditions; there are instances in which tinnitus can be indicative of an underlying problem, such as a head or neck injury, metabolic or cardiovascular disorders.

In the vast majority of cases, however, the onset of tinnitus is associated with hearing loss. The exact cause and mechanisms of tinnitus are not yet completely understood, but it’s suggested that tinnitus occurs after a physical or mental change takes place.

Predominantly associated with sensorineural hearing loss, tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss, which results from damage to the inner ear. Being exposed to loud noises is one cause of inner ear damage, but this can also happen during the normal aging process. When people experience this type of hearing loss, tinnitus may accompany it.

Alternatively, tinnitus may be associated with other ear-related conditions, such as a perforated eardrum, build up of wax, Meniere’s disease or an ear infection. Many people also associate tinnitus with a stressful life event, and patients with tinnitus tend to report that their symptoms worsen when they are stressed.

Due to the range of potential causes and subsequent treatment options, obtaining a comprehensive tinnitus diagnosis is important. As well as confirming whether tinnitus is present, your audiologist will be able to conduct tests to determine what’s causing the tinnitus and which type of treatment is likely to be most effective.

How is tinnitus treated?

The appropriate treatment options may depend on the cause of your condition. If tinnitus occurs at the same time as another condition, such as high blood pressure, for example, you may be advised to seek treatment for the initial condition. If tinnitus is a secondary effect of another medical condition, successfully resolving the original issue can result in your tinnitus symptoms resolving too.

For patients who have developed tinnitus because of another ear-related condition, such as an infection or build up of wax, your audiologist may prescribe treatment to resolve these issues. Once the infection has been treated or the wax removed, your audiologist may perform additional tests to determine whether any symptoms of tinnitus remain.

As tinnitus often occurs alongside hearing loss, hearing aids can be an effective treatment for many patients. Following diagnostic testing, your audiologist will assess whether your symptoms are likely to be caused by hearing loss and, if so, which type of hearing loss. Following this, hearing aids may be recommended.

For many patients, hearing aids fully resolve the issue of tinnitus. Once their hearing loss is addressed, and hearing aids are fitted, patients often report a complete resolution of tinnitus-related symptoms.

If symptoms persist, however, there are other treatment options available. Your audiologist may recommend tinnitus retraining therapy or white noise machines, for example. Retraining therapy can help to minimize the suffering associated with tinnitus and enable you to function effectively in spite of your symptoms, while white noise machines can help to mask or distract from the sounds you’re hearing.

To find out more about tinnitus and the treatment options available, contact Affordable Audiology & Hearing Service today at (920) 267-5220.