Hearing Concerns

Tinnitus

Contact us for a Tinnitus Evaluation

Fort Bend Hearing provides comprehensive preventative, diagnostic and rehabilitation hearing services for pediatric and adult patients. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

Tinnitus commonly manifests as ringing in the ears in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound may be perceived as a buzzing, thumping, or whooshing sound. With tinnitus, the noise isn’t actually caused by an external sound – other people can’t hear it. 

How common is tinnitus?

Surprisingly, tinnitus is quite common, especially in older adults. It affects about 15%-20% of the population.

Tinnitus is usually triggered by an underlying condition such as an ear injury, age-related hearing loss, or problems with the circulatory system. For most people, tinnitus improves when the underlying cause is addressed. Treatments that reduce or mask the noise can also help make the sounds less disturbing or noticeable.

Tinnitus Symptoms

Tinnitus is often related to phantom noises and can manifest as a buzzing, ringing, clicking, hissing, humming, or thumping sound.

Most individuals have subjective tinnitus, a type of tinnitus that only the person with the condition can hear. The sound levels of tinnitus may vary in pitch – from a high squeal to a low roar. It can also be heard in either one or both ears.

There are cases where tinnitus is so loud that it interferes with one’s ability to concentrate or hear above the noise. Tinnitus may also be intermittent or be present 24/7.

Pulsatile Tinnitus

In some cases, tinnitus can manifest as a rhythmic whooshing or pulsing sound, often in sync with one’s heartbeat. This is referred to as pulsatile tinnitus. Doctors of patients with pulsatile tinnitus may be able to hear the sound during an examination.

What causes tinnitus?

Several health conditions can trigger or worsen tinnitus. In most cases, an exact cause is never found.

Common causes/triggers of tinnitus

Hearing loss

The ears have tiny, delicate hair cells that move when the ear receives sound waves. The movement triggers electrical impulses along the nerve that lines up the ear to the brain which the latter then converts into sound. Once the hairs in the inner ear are damaged, random electrical impulses may leak into the brain, thereby causing tinnitus.

Ear infection or ear canal blockage

Ideally, the ear canals should be free from any obstruction – earwax, fluid buildup, dirt, and other debris and foreign objects. Once there is a blockage, it can change the inner ear pressure which could lead to tinnitus.

Head or neck injuries

Trauma in the head or neck can greatly affect the inner ear, brain function, and hearing nerves. Such injuries, no matter how minor, could trigger tinnitus in one ear.

Medications

There are medications that may worsen or trigger tinnitus. The higher the dose of these medications, the worse tinnitus gets. In most cases, the unwanted tinnitus noise disappears when the intake of the drugs ceases. Medications known to trigger tinnitus include certain antibiotics, cancer drugs, water pills (diuretics), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antimalarial drugs, and antidepressants.

Other causes of tinnitus

Less common causes of tinnitus include chronic health conditions, other ear problems, and injuries or medical conditions that affect the nerves in the ear or the hearing center of the brain.

Meniere’s disease

Tinnitus can be an early symptom of Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear that may be caused by the presence of abnormal inner ear fluid pressure.

Eustachian tube dysfunction

With Eustachian tube dysfunction, the tube of the inner ear connecting the middle ear and the upper throat remains open or expanded all the time, which could result in making your ear feel full.

Ear bone changes

When the bones in the middle ear stiffen, you may have a condition called otosclerosis. This condition can affect your hearing and cause tinnitus.

Muscle spasms in the inner ear

When the muscles in the inner ear tense up, tinnitus, hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness in the ear could be triggered. Sometimes, this just happens for no explainable reason, but it could also be caused by multiple sclerosis and other neurologic diseases.

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders

People who have TMJ disorders can have tinnitus, as the joint on each side of the head to the front of the ears are affected.

Brain tumor or acoustic neuroma

Head, neck, or brain tumors may be underlying reasons behind tinnitus. Acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous tumor that grows on the cranial nerve running from the brain to the inner ear, an area that controls hearing and balance.

Blood vessel disorders

Atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, or malformed blood vessels can cause blood to pass through your arteries and veins with more force than normal. This blood force could make tinnitus symptoms more noticeable.

Tinnitus Risk Factors

Anyone can experience tinnitus, but the factors below may increase the risk:

Loud noise exposure

Loud noises from heavy equipment, firearms, chainsaws, and airplanes are common sources of noise-related hearing loss. Long-term exposure to portable music devices can also cause noise-related hearing loss.

Age

As one ages, the number of functioning nerve fibers in the ears declines. This could cause hearing problems often linked to tinnitus.

Sex

Men are more likely to experience tinnitus.

Tobacco and alcohol use

Based on medical data, smokers are at a higher risk of developing tinnitus. Drinking alcohol may also increase one’s risk of tinnitus.

Certain health problems

Cardiovascular problems, obesity, high blood pressure, and a history of arthritis or head injury may increase a person’s risk of tinnitus.

Tinnitus: When to see a doctor

Tinnitus is very subjective and relative. Some people may not be bothered by tinnitus while some suffer from the symptoms to the point of not being able to function properly in their daily routine. If you or a family member is experiencing the latter, it’s best to see a doctor.

You may also need to visit a doctor if you develop tinnitus after getting an upper respiratory infection or if the symptoms don’t improve within a week.

A trip to an emergency room may be needed if you experience dizziness or sudden hearing loss with tinnitus.

Untreated tinnitus may trigger anxiety or depression, so make sure to prioritize seeing a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms that may be debilitating to your mental health. If you sense that tinnitus is already getting in the way of your normal functioning, or if you are losing sleep and/or concentration, it’s best to have an appointment with a doctor so symptoms can be managed before the condition gets worse.

You may know there is no treatment or medication to cure tinnitus at this time. However, there are several effective management strategies to help reduce the negative impact tinnitus can have on a person’s quality of life. Drs. Spencer and Davis are proud to have earned their Certificate Holder – Tinnitus Management (CH-TM), a certification program through the American Academy of Audiology. Please contact our clinic if you are experiencing tinnitus.

Tinnitus Complications

As we mentioned, tinnitus is subjective and highly relative. Some people may ignore or be able to live with tinnitus symptoms while some are greatly affected to the point that their relationships and career are affected. People with tinnitus may also experience the following:

  • Sleep problems or insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Migraines
  • Relationship problems (with family, spouse, or coworkers)

While treating any linked medical condition may not affect tinnitus directly, it can help alleviate the symptoms and help patients live a better quality of life.

Preventing Tinnitus

In most cases, tinnitus is merely the result of something that can’t actually be prevented. However, practicing these precautions won’t hurt and may even help prevent certain types of tinnitus, no matter how small the effect may be.

Using hearing protection

Exposure to loud sounds over time can greatly damage the nerves in the ears, causing tinnitus and hearing loss. It’s best to limit exposure to loud sounds if possible. However, if you really can’t avoid being exposed to loud sounds, using correct hearing protection can help.

Take care of your cardiovascular health

Living a healthy lifestyle and eating a healthy and balanced diet can help keep the blood vessels healthy which can help prevent tinnitus linked to blood vessel disorders and obesity.

Tinnitus Topics

Related Posts:

Are you ready to hear better?

Fort Bend Hearing provides comprehensive preventative, diagnostic and rehabilitation hearing services for pediatric and adult patients. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

Tinnitus Diagnosis and Treatment - Sugar Land, Texas

Fort Bend Hearing offers a wide range of hearing healthcare services in Sugar Land, Texas. From conducting hearing tests, hearing aid fitting, to tinnitus diagnosis and treatment, we are ready to be of service.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment!