Tinnitus is a sound that is heard without any external stimulation. It can be high or low-pitched; it may sound like humming, clicking, buzzing, whistling, chirping or roaring. The sound may come and go and sometimes people say that the loudness of their tinnitus changes. Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease, and is not threatening to one’s health.
Most tinnitus can only be heard by the person experiencing it. This is called subjective tinnitus. The cause of subjective tinnitus is generally unknown; however, more than 90 percent of cases with subjective tinnitus have hearing loss. Sometimes tinnitus can be heard by an examiner using a stethoscope. This type of tinnitus is called objective tinnitus and is not very common.
Objective tinnitus is often rhythmic and may be synchronous with the pulse or with respiration. It may be caused from blood flow through the vessels in the surrounding area. Objective tinnitus may also be associated with abnormal clonic muscular contractions of the palatal or middle ear muscles. This may sound like an intermittent series of sharp, regular clicks, or with palatal myoclonus, like a fairly regular, continuous clicking sound.
Subjective tinnitus is the most common type of tinnitus. Usually, once this type of tinnitus starts, it will decrease or totally stop over time and only persists in 25 percent of cases. Hearing trauma may cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus, which begins immediately after the incident of noise exposure. Other documented causes of tinnitus are: cardiovascular disorders, metabolic disorders (anemia, thyroid disease or diabetes) neurologic disorders, head trauma, medication or drugs, dental disorders, stress/depression and debris on the eardrum.
Management of tinnitus is as varied as the causes of the tinnitus. Notice that this section is not titled the cure of tinnitus but rather the management of it. People with tinnitus may want to avoid loud sound without hearing protection. Avoid caffeine, avoid smoking, avoid taking aspirin and avoid medications that cause tinnitus. Treatments for tinnitus may include stress management, biofeedback, medications, electrical stimulation, surgery, hearing aid or tinnitus masker. It is recommended that the tinnitus sufferer use a fan or other noise maker in the bedroom when sleeping to mask the tinnitus. You may want to try to sleep in an elevated position with one or two pillows to help with any head congestion. Research all medications and supplements you take to see if tinnitus can be a side effect. A good website for this type of research is drugs.com, and then go to side effects for the drug you list.
Stress and tinnitus seem to go hand in hand. Stress can cause tinnitus and tinnitus can cause stress. If you are experiencing a short-term increase of stress in your life and have noticed that you now have tinnitus, it usually will decrease when the stress decreases. If you have tinnitus that comes and goes and really does not give you any grief, then you may be fine with the management ideas listed previously. Another scenario may be that you have fluctuating tinnitus that is driving you crazy! How do you deal with something that you are unable to escape from no matter how hard you try?
What should I do? Know that you are not alone in your suffering. Rule out any of the causes listed previously. Make an appointment with an audiologist to have a hearing evaluation and discuss the tinnitus. See your physician to rule out any medical causes for the tinnitus. Take notes with you to the appointment that describe the sound you hear, how often you hear it and what makes the sound better or worse. Note your foods and see if there is a relationship between an increase in tinnitus and what you ate the day before. There are numerous websites that offer support for individuals with tinnitus. Be careful about buying products over the counter or on the Internet that profess to cure tinnitus. Your physician or audiologist can help you find the best management options for your particular situation. FBN
Written by Dr. Karon Lynn, doctor of audiology. (928) 522-0500. Or email@example.com