After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.
Tinnitus (also known at ringing in the ears) is experienced by ringing or other noises in one or both ears. I have had tinnitus in my left ear for a long time, and I have been told there is nothing that can be done about it.
Tinnitus affects 15% to 20% of people, particularly older adults. It may be present constantly, or it sometimes comes and goes.
Tinnitus is an underlying condition (often with age-related hearing loss), and it can be a low ringing to a higher roar, but it may also sound like a:
Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus is often age related as the inner ear has tiny, very delicate hairs that move as they receive sound waves. The hairs trigger electric signals using the nerve (auditory nerve) from the inner ear to the brain. Tinnitus occurs when the hairs are broken or bent.
Other possible causes include:
- Ear infection or ear canal blockage
- Ear injury
- Circulatory system disorder
- Noise related
- Head or neck injuries
- Medications - (NSAIDs, certain antibiotics, cancer drugs, antimalarial drugs, cancer drugs, water pills, antidepressants)
There are some less common causes, including:
- Chronic health conditions
- Meniere’s disease
- Eustachian tube dysfunction - the tube connecting the ear and upper throat remains expanded all the time
- Muscle spasms in the inner ear
- Ear bone changes - a stiffening of the bones in the inner ear(otosclerosis)
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- Acoustic neuroma or other neck and head tumors
- Blood vessel disorders - hypertension, atherosclerosis
- Some chronic conditions (diabetes, thyroid disorders, migraines, anemia, autoimmune disorders
- Foreign object in ear
- Vestibular schwannoma (acoustic Neuroma) - non-cancerous tumor
- Otosclerosis - a growth in the middle ear
Tinnitus may interfere with your ability to concentrate or hear other external sounds.
There are a few risk factors associated with tinnitus, including:
- Being around loud noises
- Age as the risk increases with aging
- Sex as men are more likely to get tinnitus
- Alcohol and smoking
- Some health problems, such as: obesity, cardiovascular diseased, head trauma
People sometimes complain of stress, headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
The doctor will diagnose you based on your symptoms. However, the doctor will look for underlying causes as well as medical history. Some of the possible diagnostic tests could include:
- Hearing (audiological) exam - you wear earphones in soundproof room
- Movement - you may be asked to clench your jaw, move your eye, etc. to see if your tinnitus changes or worsens
- Imaging tests - CT or MRI
- Lab tests - to check for thyroid problems, anemia, heart disease or vitamin deficiencies
- Tympanometer - a handheld device that to check the eardrum
What is Tinnitus? Causes & Treatment Strategies
Some of the most common treatments include:
- Earwax removal - remove an earwax blockage
- Hearing aids - your tinnitus may be caused by hearing loss
- Treat a blood vessel condition - underlying blood vessel conditions may require further treatment
- Ear infections - treated with drops that contain hydrocortisone
- Changing your medication - if a medication seems to be causing your tinnitus then it would be changed or stopped (aspirin and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, some antibiotics, antimalarial drugs, diuretics, antidepressants and some anticonvulsants can cause tinnitus)
- Lidocaine is sometimes given intravenously or into the middle ear to be effective, but the possible side effects outweigh the benefit.
There is no medication that cures tinnitus, but sometimes there may be one to reduce the severity of your symptoms. However, medication may be given to treat anxiety or depression if necessary.
In rare cases, surgery may be required for rare cases of a tumor, cyst or otosclerosis (calcium deposit in the ear bone).
There are numerous over-the-counter medications that are promoted to cure tinnitus, but there is no scientifically proven cure.
Many people use a tinnitus masker, which may be a bedside device at night to help you sleep that makes a pleasant sound. There is a new device that is a combination of a hearing aid and a masker.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) gives the patient one-on-one counseling and they listen to a source of a neutral sound everywhere they go, which may include a wear-in-the-ear sound generator.
Cognitive therapy is sometimes used to train a patient to modify their reaction to tinnitus.
Bimodal therapy is a treatment that trains the brain to think differently about sound. This method uses sensory stimulation (sound and touch), which is non-invasive as it uses external devices for just a few minutes daily..
There are no studies using vitamins or herbal preparations that have been shown to work, but people sometimes use ginkgo biloba, zinc or magnesium with varying results. Other treatments people use include: hibiscus, hawthorn berry, B3, niacin and juniper berries.
Prevention and Research
There are a few things that may help prevent tinnitus.
- Always use hearing protection around loud noise.
- Turn down the volume as long term exposure to loud music causes hearing loss and relieves the symptoms of tinnitus. Examples of these treatments include transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and deep brain stimulation. If your gym plays loud music, use earplugs.
- The largest and longest study was conducted by the University of Minnesota, Trinity college, St. James Hospital, University of Regensburg, University of Nottingham and Irish medical device company Neuromod Devices Limited. The researchers found that combining sound and electrical stimulation of the tongue can significantly reduce tinnitus as 85% of the participants reported improvement in the severity of their tinnitus.
- The American Tinnitus Association is sponsoring the 2021 ATA Innovative Research Grants Program application cycle, which is now open. They hope to increase the amount of research for this condition.
Easy Tinnitus Treatment - Ask Doctor Jo
Tinnitus can be a frustrating problem for many people. If you develop tinnitus after an upper respiratory infection that doesn’t improve, then it is time to see a doctor. It is important to see a doctor if you experience dizziness or hearing loss with tinnitus, then it is time to see a doctor.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2021 Pamela Oglesby