Tinnitus affects over fifty million people in the U.S. Tinnitus is described as a nagging buzzing, whistling, whining, or screeching noise in head or ears that varies in intensity and can be intermittent or constant. The degree of loudness and even the type of sound is particular to each person. Some tinnitus sufferers describe the noise as being as piercing and sharp as the signal used in the emergency broadcast system. Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease, which can accompany any type of hearing loss.
Causes and Diagnosis
The precise cause of tinnitus is not fully understood, but tinnitus has been associated with:
- Exposure to loud noises, which can damage or destroy hair cells, called cilia, in the inner ear. Once damaged, these hair cells cannot be repaired or replaced.
- Medications that are toxic to the ear (ototoxic).
- Trauma to the head/neck.
- Certain types of tumors.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Meniere’s disease.
If hearing loss is also present, a hearing aid can improve hearing and help alleviate the tinnitus by masking the noise. If no hearing loss is present, masking the tinnitus with background noise or a white noise generator can be useful.
Tinnitus sufferers should also:
- Avoid loud noises, as these can aggravate tinnitus.
- Reduce or avoid medications that induce or aggravate the condition, if possible. These include aspirin, NSAIDs, certain antibiotics, and diuretics.
- Reduce stress and get plenty of rest — feeling stressed and being tired can make tinnitus worse.
If you have any of these conditions, contact Advanced ENT and Allergy and see a specialist today:
- Sudden onset of decreased hearing.
- New problems with walking or balance.
- New dizziness, nausea, or vomiting.
- Sudden vision changes.
- Sudden numbness, paralysis, or weakness in your face, arm or leg.
- Sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.