What Is Tinnitus?

Though the common misconception about tinnitus is that it’s a disease, tinnitus is actually a symptom of a condition characterized by persistent noise heard in one or both ears or even a head noise.

Many who suffer from tinnitus describe the annoying sound as ringing in the ear, but a whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing sound is also possible. For some, these sounds come and go. But most are not that lucky, and will experience symptoms 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

These phantom sounds may cause only a slight annoyance, or they may severely disrupt everyday life. The American Tinnitus Association estimates more than 50 million Americans suffer from at least occasional bouts of tinnitus.
 

What Causes Tinnitus?

There are a number of causes, with the most common being exposure to loud noise for a prolonged period of time. In this case, your hearing may be temporarily or permanently damaged, depending upon the severity of the sound.

We can’t always tell whether your temporary damage will become permanent, but tinnitus is usually representative of an inner-ear problem. Tinnitus research is ongoing, and the mechanisms that cause tinnitus in the brain and inner ear are being more closely studied. Some possible causes are:

Loud noises can be a cause of tinnitus

Exposure to loud noise

Some medications can be a cause of tinnitus

Certain medications

Diet can be a cause of tinnitus

Diet

Head Trauma can be a cause of tinnitus

Head trauma

Stress can be a cause of tinnitus

Stress

Blockage can be a cause of tinnitus

Eardrum blockage

Jaw joint disorders can be a cause of tinnitus

Jaw joint disorders

Hearing Loss can be a cause of tinnitus

Hearing loss

In rare cases, tinnitus may be caused by a blood vessel disorder, resulting in pulsatile tinnitus. This type of tinnitus may be caused by a head or neck tumor, a buildup of cholesterol in the circulatory system, high blood pressure, turbulent blood flow, or malformation of the capillaries surrounding the ear. The result is a tinnitus that sends out pulsing signals in conjunction with the flow of your heartbeat.

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Is There a Cure?

There is definitely hope that tinnitus can be reduced and lessened to a significant degree for many people. We will work with you to identify potential causes for your specific symptoms, and there may be a way to reduce the negative impact of tinnitus on your daily life. In some instances, changes to your diet or medications may help with your symptoms. Tinnitus retraining techniques such as sound generators, muscle relaxation and other techniques have shown to reduce tinnitus.
 

What Are the Treatment Options for Tinnitus?

Diagnostic testing and/or an evaluation by an otologist will rule out possible medical factors that could be causing or contributing to your tinnitus. Because your tinnitus symptoms are personal and unique in nature, an in-depth evaluation will help us create a specialized treatment plan for you.

Although there isn’t a single cure for tinnitus, our audiologists have the knowledge and experience to provide you with treatment methods that can help lessen the impact that tinnitus has on your life. In many cases, the distressing combination of tinnitus and hearing loss can be relieved with hearing aids or sound generators.

The No. 1 treatment for tinnitus for those who also experience hearing loss is the use of a personal hearing system, which can improve your hearing and often reduce or eliminate your perception of tinnitus. There are a number of treatment options, including:

Hearing TechnologyHearing Technology: The top treatment for those who experience hearing loss, which can both improve overall hearing ability and eliminate the perception of ringing.

MaskingMasking: An electronic device called a masker may be worn to distract from the ringing sensation. Maskers fit in the ear similarly to hearing aids and produce low-level sounds. In addition, bedside sound generators and other devices can also help remove the perception of ringing.

Tinnitus retraining therapyTinnitus Retraining Therapy: A therapeutic process in which we specialize, and has given relief to many of our patients. Our process is a combination of sound therapy and counseling, which alters the brain’s neural signals and weakens the perception of tinnitus, allowing you to live your daily life far more peacefully.

Cognitive behavioral therapyCognitive Behavioral Therapy: A type of counseling that helps to change the body’s emotional reaction to tinnitus by altering negative thought patterns and helping to relieve stress.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are there medications for tinnitus?
Most all of the “quick fix” remedies for tinnitus that are seen on the internet and magazine ads can be misleading. However there are things that are known to significantly help the reduction of tinnitus for many. Ask the Audiologist at your scheduled appointment. This is one of our areas of expertise.
Can tinnitus be directly measured?
During the diagnostic testing procedure, there are techniques and assessments that help to quantify the degree of the problematic nature of the tinnitus on your life. With this information, we are able to monitor the improvement in lessening the tinnitus over time. There are also measures to estimate the sound level and frequency of tinnitus when appropriate.
Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?
No. Tinnitus is a symptom of many conditions including hearing loss. It is not a disease and will not cause deafness.
Why is tinnitus worse at night?
In our daily lives, sounds around us typically mask tinnitus to some degree. At night, when things are quiet, there’s less noise and fewer mental distractions. If your tinnitus is stress related, it’s also possible that the cumulative stress of your day has made your symptoms worse. Fatigue can also impact your tinnitus and result in a perceived increase in loudness.