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Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears and what to do about it 

 August 20, 2021

Tinnitus is a sensation of ringing, whooshing, buzzing, or whistling in the ears. It is also generally known as ‘ringing in the ears’. 

People suffering from this condition hear this sound in one or both of the ears. What makes tinnitus so confusing & bothersome is that the sound heard by the patient isn’t an external sound, & others can’t hear it even in close proximity to the patient.

Tinnitus is a common complaint, especially among older people. It is estimated that around 15-20% of the world’s population suffers from Tinnitus.

 

Common causes of Tinnitus:

Common causes of Tinnitus include:

  • Age-related hearing loss, older adults generally experience tinnitus more frequently than younger people
  • An ear injury, any kind of ear injury, inner ear surgery, eardrum injury, or blow to the ear can cause tinnitus
  • A circulation issue. Tinnitus is often the result of poor circulation in the extremities of the ear. When the inner ear & its surrounding structures don’t get enough blood supply, their function is compromised, causing dizziness, vertigo-like symptoms, headache, nausea, excess fluid build-up in the ears, & tinnitus. 
  • An inner ear infection or disorders, including Vestibular Neuritis, Labyrinthitis, & Meniere’s Disease
  • An upper respiratory tract infection, like the common cold, flu, & any other viral illness
  • Ear canal blockage. If the ear canal is blocked or clogged with wax build-up, it might be difficult for sound to travel in your ears properly, thus causing the random firing of sounds of varying frequencies. 
  • Head or neck injury, as these often affect the inner ear, causing random sounds to travel throughout the ear
  • Medications. Some medications can cause or worsen already-existing Tinnitus symptoms. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), some antibiotics, drugs to treat cancer, water pills (diuretics), antimalarial drugs, and antidepressants.
  • Exposure to loud sounds
  • Excessive usage of alcohol & tobacco-containing products

 

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Certain other uncommon causes of tinnitus include Acoustic Neuroma(a type of benign tumor that presses against the inner ear structure & the vestibular nerve), changes in the ear bone, Eustachian tube dysfunction, Muscle spasms in the inner ear, Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, Blood vessel disorders, & any other chronic health conditions. 

 

Tinnitus symptoms:

Patients suffering from Tinnitus often describe it as a constant ringing sound in the ears, even though there is no actual external sound present. 

However, tinnitus isn’t limited to just a ringing sound in the ears. Rather, it can cause a lot of phantom sounds inside the ears, including:

 

  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Clicking
  • Hissing
  • Humming

 

The sound experienced in Tinnitus can range from a low-frequency squeal to a loud pitched roar, & all the way to a loud, thumping sound. 

You can hear it in either one of the ears, or both. 

In certain cases of severe tinnitus, the sound that the patient experiences can be so loud that it interferes with the everyday functioning of the patient, & can make it difficult for them to hear other external sounds. 

Tinnitus may be present at all times or may come and go.

In rare cases, you may experience the tinnitus sound like a rhythmic pulsing or whooshing in your ears, often in tune with your heartbeat.

When this happens, it’s called Pulsatile Tinnitus.

If you experience Pulsatile Tinnitus, your doctor can easily diagnose it by doing an examination, as it’s also a form of objective tinnitus. 

 

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Tinnitus Treatment:

Tinnitus treatment usually depends on what is causing Tinnitus symptoms. Your doctor will conduct thorough tests on you to figure out what exactly is causing your symptoms, & based on that, they will prescribe you certain treatments & medications. 

 

  • For tinnitus caused by Meniere’s Disease: Your doctor will prescribe you water pills, also known as diuretics, to help treat Meniere’s Disease. Since Meniere’s Disease is caused by an imbalance in the fluid inside your inner ear, diuretics help control the level of that fluid & give you relief from the symptoms of Meniere’s Disease, including Tinnitus. 

  • For Tinnitus caused by inner ear infections: Your doctor will most likely prescribe you some antibiotics & anti-viral medications to help treat the original infection, in hopes that the Tinnitus will also go away along with it.
    In case your Tinnitus persists even after the infection is gone, then your doctor might try other treatment methods to try & treat your tinnitus.
    These include psychotherapy, ear masks to help ‘mask’ or cover the noise arising from within the ear to help you focus on the external sounds, meditation to help center you, & other stress-relieving exercises & activities. 


  • For tinnitus caused by age-related hearing loss & ear bone changes: Your doctor will either prescribe you hearing aids to help limit your hearing loss & reduce the intensity of your tinnitus symptoms or suggest a surgical solution to help your hearing loss.
    Surgical solutions might also help with tinnitus occurring due to ear bone changes, & help reduce its intensity & severity. 


  • For Tinnitus caused by Acoustic Neuroma: Your doctor might prescribe you certain medications to keep the tumor from pressing into your vestibular nerve. However, if the tumor is already too grown, they might suggest surgical options to remove your tumor. 


  • For Tinnitus caused by circulation issues: Your doctor will prescribe you certain medications to help treat your blood circulation issues, along with some exercises, dietary changes, & certain lifestyle modifications. This is done to unclog your blood vessels & improve their functioning throughout your body.
    This can also prevent any future cardiac complications that might undermine your heart function. 

 

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In any case, if you experience tinnitus that doesn’t go away on its own & persists for a significant amount of time, visiting a doctor & trying to figure out what’s wrong is your best bet to avoid any further inconvenience & complications. 

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