What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus refers to an auditory perception (sound) in the ear that is not a sound in the environment.  Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing, roaring, hissing or whooshing sound.

The sounds can range from high pitch to low pitch and can vary in loudness.  Tinnitus can be isolated to one ear, both ears, or even to the center of the head.

Tinnitus in NOT an auditory hallucination or an illusion. 

Tinnitus has been related to the following conditions:
Hearing loss Certain medications
Excessive noise exposure Meniere's Disease
High blood pressure In rare cases, a tumor on the auditory nerve
Wax or fluid in the ear  

What exactly causes the sounds in my ears?

There are many possible reasons for tinnitus.  Some of these reasons are:

  • Problems with the little hairs in the inner ear (cochlea)
  • Problems with the functioning of the nerve of hearing (auditory nerve)
  • Inability of the brain to perform normal reduction (inhibition) of a tinnitus sound
What can I do about it?

Schedule appointments to see a medical doctor, preferable an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat physician), and a certified audiologist.

The ENT and the audiologist will combine the results of your medical and hearing evaluations to determine further follow-up.

Depending on the results of your testing, your doctor and audiologist may recommend further diagnostic tests (i.e. MRI, CT scan) or may simply recommend that you pursue treatment for your tinnitus.

What can be done for Tinnitus?

Once it is determined that your tinnitus is not attributed to a treatable medical condition (such as fluid or wax in the ear), you may wish to pursue one of the many tinnitus management options.  Some of these include:

  • Tinnitus retraining therapy
  • Tinnitus maskers
  • Hearing aids (for those with hearing loss)
  • Combination hearing aides/tinnitus maskers
  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Counseling
  • Acupuncture
  • Certain medications (please note: there is no medication to reduce the tinnitus itself, but some medications may be able to reduce your strong emotional reaction to the tinnitus).
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