What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a sensation of hearing noises when there’s no source. These sounds can range from ringing and buzzing to hissing and roaring. These sounds can be heard in either or both ears and have the potential to be such a distraction that they can make concentration difficult.
Are there different kinds of tinnitus?
There are two types of tinnitus:
- Objective tinnitus - A rare condition where the doctor can hear the noise when he examines the ears and may be due to a blood vessel issue, issues with the bone of the middle ear, or muscle compression
- Subjective tinnitus - The most common form that only the patient can hear; due to ear problems in the inner, middle, or outer ear, issues with the auditory nerves, or the feature of the brain that translates nerve signals as sound
What else can cause tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be caused by a number of sources:
- Meniere's disease
- TMJ conditions - Malfunctions with the temporomandibular joint, located just in front of the ear
- Head or neck damage or tumors
- Acoustic neuroma - A harmless tumor that forms on the cranial nerve that goes from the brain to the inner ear, affecting balance and hearing
- High blood pressure
- Erratic blood flow
- Abnormality of capillaries
What is Meniere's disease?
Meniere's disease is a condition involving the inner ear resulting from fluid accumulation in the chambers of the inner ear, termed the labyrinth. This condition usually disturbs only one ear.
What are the signs of Meniere's disease?
Vertigo is the primary symptom of Meniere's disease. Additional symptoms include:
- Ringing in one or both ears/tinnitus
- Hearing loss
- A feeling of fullness in the ears
- Dizzying episode - May occur without warning or may be preceded by a brief course of tinnitus and can come in individual bouts with a long time in between or many episodes over several days; some attacks, termed "drop attacks," can be so serious that the sufferer collapses
What types of testing are used for tinnitus?
- Questionnaires - To determine the patient's perception of the tinnitus, its pitch, and loudness
- Ear examination
- Medical history - To identify any genetic component for hearing problems
- Laboratory/imaging tests - To determine if there’s any obstruction near the ear
What’s the treatment for tinnitus?
If tinnitus is due to a health condition, your doctor will address this condition. Treatment of tinnitus includes:
- General wellness - Decreases stress and improves overall health
- Sound therapies - Using external sounds to counteract the perceived internal sounds
- Behavioral therapies - Address anxiety or other issues that can accompany the condition
- TMJ treatments - Exercises and pressure points used to decrease TMJ issues
- Hearing aids