Nearly 36 million Americans suffer from tinnitus (head noises). It may be an intermittent sound or an annoying continuous sound in one or both ears and its pitch can go from a low roar to a high squeal or whine. Prior to any treatment, it is important to undergo a thorough examination and evaluation by your otolaryngologist to ensure your understanding of tinnitus and its causes.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Most tinnitus comes from damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear. The health of these nerve endings is important for acute hearing, and injury to them brings on hearing loss and often tinnitus. If you are older, advancing age is generally accompanied by a certain amount of hearing nerve impairment and tinnitus. If you are younger, exposure to loud noise may be the cause of tinnitus and often damages hearing as well.
There are many causes for subjective tinnitus (the noise only you can hear). Some causes are not serious such as a small plug of wax in the ear canal might cause temporary tinnitus. Tinnitus can also be a symptom of stiffening of the middle ear bones (otosclerosis).
Tinnitus may also be caused by allergy, high or low blood pressure (blood circulation problems), a tumor, diabetes, thyroid problems, injury to the head or neck and medications such anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, sedatives, antidepressants and aspirin. If you take aspirin and your ears ring, talk to your physician about dosage in relation to your size.
How Is Tinnitus Treated?
Treatment will be different in each case of and it is important to
see an otolaryngologist to investigate the cause of your tinnitus so
that the best treatment can be determined. In most cases, there is no specific treatment for ear and head noise. If your otolaryngologist finds a specific cause of your tinnitus, he or she may be able to eliminate the noise. But, this determination may require extensive testing including X-rays, balance tests, and laboratory work. However, most causes cannot he identified. Occasionally, medicine may help the noise. The medications used are varied, and several may be tried to see if they help.
What Are Some Other Tinnitus Treatment Options?
Amplification (hearing aids)
Cochlear implants or electrical stimulation
What Can Help Me Cope?
Concentration and relaxation exercises can help to control muscle groups and circulation throughout the body. The increased relaxation and circulation achieved by these exercises can reduce the intensity of tinnitus in some patients.
Masking out the head noise with white noise at a constant low level, such as a ticking clock or radio static, may make it less noticeable. Tinnitus is usually more bothersome in quiet surroundings. Products that generate white noise are available through catalogs and specialty stores.
Hearing aids may reduce head noise while you are wearing them and sometimes cause the noise to go away temporarily, if you experience hearing loss. It is important not to set the hearing aid at excessively loud levels, as this can worsen the tinnitus in some cases. However, a thorough trial before purchase of a hearing aid is advisable if your primary purpose is the relief of tinnitus.
Tinnitus maskers can be combined within hearing aids. They emit a competitive but pleasant sound that can distract you from head noise. Some people find that a tinnitus masker may even suppress the head noise for several hours after it is used, but this is not true for all users.
Can Other People Hear The Noise In My Ears?
Not usually but sometimes they are able to hear a certain type of tinnitus. This is called "objective tinnitus,” and is caused either by abnormalities in blood vessels around the outside of the ear or by muscle spasms, which may sound like clicks or crackling inside the middle ear.
Can Children Be At Risk For Tinnitus?
Yes, children are at risk too, however, it is not a common complaint. Children who are exposed to loud noises are at a higher risk for tinnitus and high-decibel recreational events, such as car races, music concerts or sports games can damage children’s ears. Hearing protection devices should always be worn.
Tips To Lessen the Severity of Tinnitus
Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises.
Get your blood pressure checked. If it is high, seek the help of a physician.
Decrease your intake of salt as it impairs blood circulation.
Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea. cola and tobacco.
Exercise daily to improve your circulation.
Get adequate rest and avoid fatigue.
Stop worrying about the noise. Recognize your head noise as an annoyance and learn to ignore it as much as possible.
Lexington Clinic is Central Kentucky’s largest and oldest medical group. With 200+ providers in more than 30 specialties, we have been taking care of 600,000+ patients annually in the Lexington community since 1920.