Tinnitus is defined as hearing a ringing, buzzing or whooshing noise that originate in the ear or the head and is typically only heard by the person experiencing the condition.
Though tinnitus is usually not dangerous, it can be a symptom of another health problem or underlying condition. Tinnitus can cause many stressful side effects, including fatigue, sleep problems, concentration difficulty, memory problems, depression, anxiety and irritability. Though it's not necessarily serious, it can negatively impact your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus may have several underlying causes. Your doctor may begin investigating the condition by first finding out what kind of tinnitus you suffer from. There are two general types of tinnitus: subjective and objective tinnitus.
Subjective tinnitus means that only you can hear the noise or ringing in your ears. Objective tinnitus means that it may be possible for your physician to also hear the noise or ringing while performing an exam.
Tinnitus can be caused by a number of things from certain medications to a variety of health problems. Your physician will take a detailed history of your health and medications, perform a thorough examination and possibly order a hearing test or conduct other tests of the auditory system.
Possible causes of tinnitus include:
- Age-related hearing loss
- Exposure to loud noise
- Earwax buildup
- Abnormal bone growth in the ear
- Meniere's disease
- Stress and depression
- Head or neck injuries
- Benign tumor of the cranial nerve
- Certain medications
In some cases, the exact cause of the tinnitus may not be found but serious underlying conditions can be ruled out.
How is tinnitus treated?
While tinnitus can resolve on it’s own, it’s often treated by addressing the underlying condition. Depending on the individual case, some tinnitus treatments may include:
- Hearing aids
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
- Music and sound therapy
- Relaxation techniques
- Phone apps
It is important to note that there is not one treatment that will work for everyone. Hearing aids are one of the most widely recommended treatments because they can be equipped with sound masking features, enabling the individual to block out the tinnitus sounds.
In general, tinnitus treatments may not make the tinnitus disappear completely, but they often can make it less noticeable and ease your stress and anxiety from it. Speak with your hearing professional about the best tinnitus treatment option for you.