Simply put, tinnitus is a ringing in the ears. However, it may not just be a ringing sound, but can also be a buzzing, hissing, clicking, whistling or even roaring sound. Tinnitus can range from a minor annoyance to a major life disruption depending on the duration and severity of ringing.
Types of Tinnitus
There are two types of tinnitus:
- Subjective tinnitus, the most common is tinnitus that only you can hear.
- Objective tinnitus is rarer is tinnitus that a doctor can hear while doing an examination.
Most everyone gets occasional ear ringing from time to time, but if your tinnitus is happening regularly and is bothering you, it's time to see an audiologist.
Causes of Tinnitus
The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the inner ear, which can created by the following:
- Age related hearing loss - general hearing loss due to aging can cause tinnitus
- Exposure to loud noises - sudden or prolonged exposure to loud noises can cause short or long term hearing loss which can cause tinnitus
- Earwax buildup - a buildup of ear wax can block the ear canal creating a hearing loss; this can lead to tinnitus
- Changes to ear bones - an abnormal ear bone growth or stiffening of the ear bones can cause tinnitus
There are some diseases and disorders, including blood vessel disorders, which can also be linked to causing tinnitus. In addition, some medications can cause or worsen tinnitus. It's important to see your doctor to determine the cause so that it can be treated accordingly.
How is Tinnitus Treated?
Treatment for tinnitus is dependent on the cause. For tinnitus caused by another health condition, treatment may include removal of earwax, changing or medication, or treating an undiagnosed blood vessel disorder.
Hearing-related tinnitus can be treated a number of ways:
- Hearing aids - hearing aids can be very helpful in reducing tinnitus, especially if you have hearing loss combined with tinnitus
- White noise - a low level noise in the ear may be used to help suppress the noise heard from the tinnitus
- Medications - though they won't cure it, some medications can reduce the severity of tinnitus
- Alternative medicines - some may opt to try alternative therapies such as hypnosis, acupuncture or vitamin supplements
How to Prevent Tinnitus
- Avoid sudden loud noise or long-term exposure to loud noise; if you know you're going to be in a location with loud noise, wear ear plugs
- Eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep - ensuring that your body gets proper nutrients and exercise, as well as rest, can go a long way in preventing tinnitus
- Manage stress - too much stress on the body can also cause tinnitus
- Avoid stimulants and depressants such as coffee or alcohol which can contribute to stressing the body
Do you have tinnitus that is on going or worsening and is becoming bothersome? If so, it's time to see your doctor or audiologist. If action is not taken, a mild form of tinnitus can become more severe over time.