What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears that can only be heard by the affected individual. It has also been described as whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing in the ear. These sounds may come and go, but for most tinnitus sufferers, the symptoms produce a constant, maddening drone. The effects range from slight annoyance to severe disruption of everyday life. It is estimated that 13 to 15% of the population has prolonged tinnitus (greater than 5 minutes).
Causes of Tinnitus
Research continues on finding why some people have tinnitus and others do not. This will be a first solution to a cure. The most common theory on the cause of tinnitus is that it is a result of cochlear hair cell damage. Within the cochlea (the end organ of hearing) outer hair cells serve to inhibit inner hair cell function. As outer hair cell damage increases (such as with increased hearing loss) more spontaneous neural activity increases which in turn likely leads to greater perceived tinnitus.
Associated conditions may include Meniere’s Disease, middle ear problems with associated conductive hearing loss, metabolic imbalances, circulatory disturbances such as hypertension, hematologic disorders, chronic muscular contractions, head trauma, acoustic nerve lesions, infections of the inner ear, Bell’s Palsy, a malfunctioning eustachian tube, otosclerosis, drug ingestion, excessive use of alcohol, and disorders of the vertebrae. One of the most common causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises such as shooting, rock concerts, or chain saw use.
Due to the personal and unique nature of each tinnitus condition, proper evaluation and specialized treatment is necessary. Although there isn’t a single cure for tinnitus, Sound Hearing Clinic audiologists are experienced at providing individual solutions on a case-by-case basis. After completing a hearing test, your professional may refer you to an otolaryngologist for further examination, if medical treatment is necessary.
In many cases, the distressing combination of tinnitus and hearing loss can be relieved with hearing aids. Specially engineered hearing aids are now available, and they can restore ambient sounds and help fill Sound Voids™ to eliminate the effects of tinnitus.
Our audiologists will also evaluate other treatment options with you, including Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). TRT combines low-level, steady background sounds played through a device with concurrent counseling. It is an involved process that can take several months to reduce the effects of tinnitus.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of tinnitus, please visit us for a consultation.