Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no external sound is actually present. It is a symptom (not a disease) indicating that something is wrong in the auditory system, which includes the ear, the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain, and the parts of the brain that process sound. Tinnitus is often described as a ringing in the ears, but it can also sound like a roaring, clicking, hissing or buzzing. It can affect one or both ears.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), roughly 10 percent of the U.S. adult population, or about 25 million Americans, has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a symptom that is usually the result of a number of health conditions, such as:

  • Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
  • Age-Related Hearing Loss (Presbycusis)
  • Ear and Sinus Infections
  • Earwax Blockage
  • Head and Neck Injuries
  • Disease of the Heart or Blood Vessels
  • Ménière’s Disease
  • Medications
  • Brain Tumors
  • Hormonal Changes in Women
  • Thyroid Abnormalities

At ENT of Parker, your audiologist will help you explore potential causes that are triggering your symptoms of tinnitus.

What Are the Symptoms of Tinnitus?

People who suffer from tinnitus have varying symptoms, but often describe the sounds they perceive in one of three ways:

  • Tonal – a continuous sound with well-defined frequencies
  • Pulsatile – a pulsing sound, like that of a heartbeat
  • Musical – a music or singing sound on a continuous loop

Tinnitus symptoms can have a grave effect on one’s daily life, and as a result may cause secondary symptoms of depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and pain. For some people, tinnitus also affects sleep and concentration, or their ability to work and socialize.

Are There Risk Factors Associated with Tinnitus?

Men are at a higher risk for developing tinnitus than women because they are often in occupations that expose them to loud noise over an extended period of time (e.g., factory workers, construction workers, military service, and the music industry). Other factors that may increase a person’s risk for developing tinnitus include age, smoking, and cardiovascular problems.

Are There Different Types of Tinnitus?

A person may be diagnosed with either subjective or objective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is the most common type and refers to head or ear noises that only the patient hears. Objective tinnitus is less common than subjective and refers to head or ear noises that are audible to both the patient and others. These sounds are usually produced by internal functions in the body’s circulatory (blood flow) and somatic (musculo-skeletal movement) systems.

Is There a Cure for Tinnitus?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus for patients with chronic (ongoing) symptoms (e.g., people with a sensorineural hearing loss); however, for patients who have an acute (temporary) case of tinnitus, they may see those symptoms go away over time with proper treatment.

Are There Treatment Options Available for Tinnitus?

There are several treatment options available to help patients experience a better quality of life, no matter the degree or severity of tinnitus they may have. Check out the following list of treatments for tinnitus from the American Tinnitus Association, as well as our list.

If you think you have tinnitus, contact ENT of Parker at (303) 840-9690 to schedule an appointment with one of our audiologists. As part of the consultation, your audiologist will examine your ears first to see if anything is blocking your ear canals, such as earwax, and he will ask you about your current health, medical conditions, and medications to find out if any underlying condition is causing your tinnitus. To learn more about ENT of Parker, visit our website.