Tinnitus (Ear ringing)

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is any perception of sound that does not come from an external source.
Objective tinnitus can be heard by other people (5% of all tinnitus cases). It is usually caused by vascular or muscular disorders and can be treated medically or surgically.
Subjective tinnitus is heard only by the individual (95% of all tinnitus cases). Subjective tinnitus occurs in over 80% of individuals with sensorineural hearing loss. It has a variety of causes, making treatment difficult to prescribe.

What does tinnitus sound like?

Tinnitus can sound like anything from high-pitched ringing to whooshing sounds to your heartbeat. Crickets, ocean waves, roaring, and buzzing are some reported sounds perceived by individuals with tinnitus. Tinnitus can constant, or last for only seconds at a time.

What causes tinnitus?

Most tinnitus occurs due to the damage of hair cells in the cochlea, causing them to send signals to the brain when no sound is present. Age can have an effect on hair cell impairment, as well as exposure to loud noise. Cardiovascular problems and certain drugs can also have detrimental effects on these hair cells.

Here is a partial list of things that may cause tinnitus:

  • Otosclerosis

  • High cholesterol

  • Allergies

  • TMJ

  • Earwax

  • Stress

  • Head/neck injury

  • Nicotine

  • High/low blood pressure

  • Caffeine

  • Tumors (very rare)

  • Diseases of the inner ear

  • Alcohol

  • Medications: Anti-inflammatories, Antibiotics, Sedatives, Antidepressants, Aspirin, Ototoxic medications

My tinnitus really disrupts my daily life. What help is there?

There is no cure for tinnitus at the present time. However, certain treatments are available:

  • Hearing aids may mask the tinnitus

  • Biofeedback

  • Physician-prescribed medications

  • Tinnitus maskers

  • TMJ treatment

  • Cognitive therapy

  • Sound therapy

  • Alternative treatments: Herbal preparations, Vitamin supplements, Minerals

Resources and more information:


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