Categories: E. N. T.

Know about Tinnitus

Everyone can experience a ringing sound in their ears once in a while that may not be concerning. But, when somebody hears continuous faint or loud ringing without external sound, it can be something that needs attention.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a relatively common problem in which a person experience ringing, clicking, roaring, or buzzing sound in ears that are not audible to others. The sound may be soft or loud, low pitched, or of high intensity. A person can hear it in one or both ears.

Initially, it may not affect you much, but gradually the sound worsens and affects daily activities, concentration, and sleep quality. Severe tinnitus can disrupt normal activities, making you frustrated, stressed, and depressed.

What are the causes of tinnitus?

Tinnitus is not a disease but is a symptom of other auditory ailments. Our hearing or auditory system includes the ear, the auditory nerves (which connect the inner ear to the brain), and the parts of the brain that process sound waves. Any abnormalities in these parts may cause tinnitus. The following are the few conditions that may cause tinnitus:

  • Age: Tinnitus is usually the first sign of age-related hearing loss (presbycusis). It affects most of the elders over age 65 years.
  • Excess ear wax: Sometimes, excess wax clogs the ear canal and causes temporary tinnitus and hearing issues.
  • Foreign objects stuck in the ear: External entities, such as a pen cap or pencil tip while cleaning the ear, can be lodged into the ear and damage the eardrum.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss: Exposure to sudden or continuous loud noise can damage the sensory hair cells of the inner ears, which transmit the sound waves to the brain. An explosion (sudden noise) may cause tinnitus. People who work in noisy environments, such as factories, construction sites, road drilling, or musicians, may also experience tinnitus.
  • Meniere‚Äôs disease: This chronic ear disorder causes tinnitus, hearing loss, and balance issues.
  • Allergies: Runny nose and congestion can cause tinnitus and ear pain.
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders: Inflammation of the joints or muscles surrounding this joint can cause continuous sound in the ear.
  • Vascular diseases: When there is a defect in blood vessels supplying the head and neck, one can suffer from rhythmic pulsating sound in the ears similar to heartbeats. This pulsating tinnitus can also be present in brain tumors or defects in brain structures.
  • Acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma): This non-cancerous tumor affects the nerves which attach the inner ear to the brain and causes tinnitus and balancing issues.
  • Numerous medications: Some medicines can also cause tinnitus as a side effect.
  • Sometimes, a person can develop tinnitus without any medical condition.

What should people do if they have tinnitus?

If you hear continuous ringing or buzzing sounds in one or both ears without any related external sound, then it is good to consult your healthcare provider. The doctor will perform the following examination:

  • Physical examination by checking any foreign objects or earwax blocking the eustachian or ear canal
  • Complete medical history to detect any underlying condition
  • Medication history to rule out tinnitus as a side effect of drugs
  • The ENT doctor or otolaryngologist may perform a head, neck, and ears examination to rule out the possible cause of tinnitus, such as hearing loss or other head and neck conditions.
  • An audiologist can evaluate tinnitus severity and measure your hearing power (hearing test or audiometry).
  • The doctors can also suggest tests such as tympanometry and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose severity.

What are preventive measures against tinnitus, and how to stop worsening it?

The best way to avoid developing or worsening tinnitus is to protect your ears and hearing system from external irritants. Avoid exposure to loud noises (loud music, machinery noise, or loud crackers) by moving away from the sound. Wearing earplugs while doing machinery work or turning down the volume can help prevent and worsen tinnitus.

Treatment of tinnitus

Treatment of this condition depends on the underlying cause. The following are some treatment modalities:

    • Removal of earwax or any lodged objects
  • People with hearing loss may get benefit from hearing aids.
  • Wearable or tabletop sound generators help mask the buzzing sound of tinnitus and aid in sleep.
  • An acoustic neural stimulator is helpful in severe tinnitus.
  • In severe tinnitus and hearing loss, cochlear implants are also of help.

The continuous ringing sound in your ear is annoying and can make you frustrated and depressed. Therefore, it is better not to ignore this symptom and consult your doctor to prevent worsening.

Narayana Health

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