Tinnitus is the medical term for a constant ringing, buzzing, hissing, or roaring sound inside the ears.
Tinnitus is usually referred to as a ‘ringing in the ears’, owing to the sound that patients hear every time they experience an attack. However, it’s also common for tinnitus patients to hear sounds other than ringing. These include sounds like buzzing, hissing, roaring, whistling, whooshing, etc.
Tinnitus involves patients hearing sounds without any external noise input. This means that there are no sounds near the head, but the patient still hears them. For this reason, tinnitus sounds are also known as ‘Phantom Sounds’.
Although tinnitus sounds vary in intensity and frequency from one person to another, for some people this sound might be so severe that it interferes with everyday sounds. Their tinnitus sounds might be so intense that they can’t hear the other external sounds properly. This leads to a lot of frustration, anxiety, & depression in Tinnitus patients.
Patients may experience Tinnitus in either one or both ears. While people of all ages can develop tinnitus, it’s usually more common in older adults. Tinnitus is of two types; objective & subjective.
Objective Tinnitus is defined as the type of tinnitus which can also be heard by other people, other than the patient. This type of tinnitus is caused by abnormal blood vessels in & around your ears. People suffering from this type of tinnitus also sometimes hear the sound of their own heart beating in their chest distinctively. This rhythmic beating sound is also heard by other people around you.
Subjective Tinnitus is when you only hear sounds internally, without anyone else noticing any sounds that you hear. Subjective Tinnitus is usually much more common than Objective Tinnitus.
Middle ear or inner ear damage is a common tinnitus cause among the population that suffers from the condition. The job of the middle ear is to pick up sound waves, which are then conducted to the inner ear. The inner ear then transmits appropriate sound signals in the form of electrical impulses to the brain for it to process the sound.
Once the brain processes the electrical signals as sounds that you can easily hear, can you hear any external & internal sounds. However, if the inner ear or the middle ear sustains any damage, there is a misfire or interference in this process. This disturbance in the usual functioning of the inner ear &/or the middle ear leads to a perception of sound that doesn’t exist externally.
Sometimes, this disturbance is so severe & pronounced that it causes loud internal sounds that can also be heard by other people around you, although this is a far rare occurrence. In some cases, any kind of damage to your eardrums or the tiny bones inside your middle ear, can also interfere with the proper conduction of sound between the ear & the brain, causing Tinnitus. Tumors that are present inside the ear or on the auditory nerve can also be tinnitus causes.
Exposure to very loud noise consistently for longer periods of time is also a tinnitus cause, especially among people who work at construction sites, hospital radiology departments, & as sound engineers.
People who regularly use jackhammers, chainsaw, or other heavy machinery, & those that are in the habit of listening to loud music with their headphones, are at increased risk for tinnitus.
There are also certain medications that can cause tinnitus & hearing damage in some people, also known as ototoxicity.
These drugs include:
- Large doses of aspirin, like more than 12 doses daily for a long period of time
- Diuretic medications such as bumetanide
- Antimalarial drugs like chloroquine
- Antibiotics like erythromycin & gentamycin
- Anti-cancer medications like vincristine
Some other conditions that can cause ringing sound in the ears include:
- Age-related hearing loss
- Muscle spasms in your middle ear
- Meniere’s Disease, an inner ear disorder that causes dizziness, nausea, hearing loss, & vertigo-like symptoms
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Any head or neck injuries
- Temporomandibular joint disorders(TMJ), which also causes chronic pain in your jaw & head
- A build-up of excessive earwax inside your ears. Plenty of earwax inside your ears can cause issues with your hearing.
Diagnosis of tinnitus:
Your doctor will likely conduct a hearing test to determine if you’re suffering from Tinnitus.
This test will be conducted by an audiologist who will make you wear headphones & pass sounds through both ears.
You will be required to raise your hand or make some other gesture when you hear the sound in either of the ears. Based on the results, your doctor will devise adequate tinnitus treatment strategies for your particular case.
Your doctor might also recommend imaging tests like CT scans & MRI scans to observe the structure of your ear & look for any structural abnormalities & deformities.
Your doctor will likely utilize a variety of options for tinnitus treatment. These treatment options include:
- Medications that include anti-dizziness, anti-nausea, & vision problems. Somme vertigo medicines like vertin tablet, meclizine tablet, stemetil MD tablet, might also be used in tinnitus treatment. Sometimes your doctor might also suggest you take anti-anxiety medications & antidepressants.
- Home remedies like reducing your intake of salt, indulging in a rich, healthy diet, sleeping 8 hours a day, & drinking plenty of water are also useful tinnitus treatment options.
- Masking devices that help in noise suppression & reduction to help reduce the sounds experienced by tinnitus patients. Masking devices reduce or completely mask the tinnitus sounds that you’re experiencing so that you can focus on other external sounds.
- Hearing Aids are another useful & popular tinnitus treatment option. They are worn over-the-ear, or in-the-ear to amplify any external sounds to help you hear the sounds properly. Doctors have found that the better your hearing is, the less likely you are to experience tinnitus sounds.
- Cochlear Implants, Cochlear Implants to restore your normal hearing are also quite useful in tinnitus treatment. A cochlear implant is a device that helps your brain bypass the damaged part of your ear & hear any external sounds more effectively. It consists of a microphone implanted just above your ear that works with an electrode set inserted inside your ear. This implant sends the signals your brain needs to process sounds to your auditory nerve. Cochlear implants basically use electrical stimulation to help your brain decode sound signals in a better way.
In addition to these tinnitus treatment methods, avoiding loud noises, avoiding listening to loud music while wearing headphones, covering your ears while visiting construction sites, & places that have loud noises, are all effective preventive measures to avoid tinnitus.
If any medications are causing your tinnitus symptoms, you can talk to your doctor about either discontinuing those or reducing their dosages.