Tinnitus is the name for the common sensation of “ringing in the ears” or “noises in the ears.” This is a common symptom that is quite varied in nature and severity. Tinnitus can come and go, or it can be constant. When it is constant or severe, it can be annoying and distracting. While it can’t be be cured, there are some things that can be done to improve the tinnitus.
There are many possible causes of tinnitus. Some causes are as minor as “ear wax”,while other reasons may be more serious. This may include infection, a ruptured eardrum, “ear fluid,” or other causes of hearing dysfunction.
Other factors may include allergies, tumors, injury to the ears, neurologic and vascular disorders, and medications. The best way to determine the cause of your tinnitus is to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist to investigate the various causes. Often a hearing test (audiogram) is recommended to fully assess inner ear function. In fact, the most common diagnosis made in patients with tinnitus is hearing loss. This may be so subtle that the patient is not even aware of the hearing dysfunction. Other investigations such as blood tests and X-rays may be recommended by the physician.
Although much research has been done, the exact cause and source of the tinnitus has not yet been discovered. Most physicians feel that the “noise” is generated by damage to the inner ear and possibly the connections between the ear and brain. Unfortunately, there is not currently medicine or even surgery that can eliminate tinnitus. Sometimes, treatment of the underlying ear disorder can be helpful. This can include the use of hearing aid. The following suggestions may help reduce the severity of tinnitus.
- Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises. Obtain ear protection if necessary (ear plugs for noise can be obtained at sporting goods stores or we can make custom ones for you in our office)
- Decrease your intake of salt, coffee, colas, and tobacco as these can have a negative impact on ear function
- Try to lessen stress as this usually worsens tinnitus. Get plenty of rest and exercise regularly. Relaxation methods (such as yoga) may be helpful
- Avoid focusing on the tinnitus by “masking” the noise with sounds such as radio static or music with “sounds of nature”