Tinnitus commonly manifests as ringing in the ears in one or both ears. In some situations, the sound might sound like buzzing, thumping, or whooshing. With tinnitus, the noise isn’t actually caused by an external sound. In short, other people can’t hear it.
Surprisingly, tinnitus is quite common, especially in older adults. It affects about 15–20% of the population.
Tinnitus is usually caused by a problem with the circulatory system, an ear injury, or hearing loss that comes with age. For most people, tinnitus improves when the underlying cause is addressed. Treatments that reduce or mask the noise can also make the sounds less disturbing or noticeable.
What are the first symptoms of tinnitus?
Most individuals have subjective tinnitus, a type of tinnitus that only the person with the condition can hear. Subjective tinnitus is the most common type of tinnitus.
The sound levels of tinnitus may vary in pitch, from a high squeal to a low roar. It can also manifest in 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 be intermittent or present 24/7.
What causes tinnitus?
To this day, there is no specific cause for tinnitus. Various health conditions are noted to trigger or worsen tinnitus.
Below are some of the common causes/triggers of tinnitus:
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 can leak into the brain and cause tinnitus and/or hearing loss.
Ear infection or ear canal blockage
Ideally, the ear canals should be free from any obstruction such as impacted earwax, fluid buildup, dirt, debris, and foreign objects. Once there is a blockage, it can alter the inner ear pressure which could lead to tinnitus.
Head or neck injuries
Trauma to the head or neck can have a big effect on the inner ear, the way the brain works, and the nerves that help you hear. Such injuries, no matter how minor, could trigger tinnitus in one ear.
Some medications may worsen or trigger tinnitus. The higher the dose of these medications, the worse the tinnitus gets. Most of the time, the noise from tinnitus goes away when the drugs are stopped. Some antibiotics, cancer drugs, water pills (diuretics), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antimalarial drugs, and antidepressants have been known to cause tinnitus.
When to see a doctor?
Tinnitus is greatly subjective. Tinnitus may not bother some people, while others may find it impossible to carry out their regular activities normally. It is preferable to visit an audiologist if you or a member of your family is suffering from the latter.
If you experience tinnitus after contracting an upper respiratory infection or if your symptoms don’t subside within a week, you might also need to see a doctor.
If you experience sudden hearing loss coupled with tinnitus or dizziness, you might need to visit the emergency department.
If you are having symptoms that you feel could be detrimental to your mental health, seek an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.
Untreated tinnitus may lead to anxiety or despair. It is important to make an appointment with a doctor if you feel that tinnitus is already interfering with your usual functioning or if you are having trouble sleeping or concentrating. This will allow symptoms to be addressed before the situation worsens.
Tinnitus Evaluation in Sugar Land, TX
Tinnitus can have a detrimental influence on a person’s quality of life, but there are a number of useful management techniques that can help.
Dr. Spencer and Dr.Gonzalez , audiologists at Fort Bend Hearing, 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. We’re happy to help!