Understanding Tinnitus

It is estimated that 10-15% of the population experiences tinnitus. Tinnitus (pronounced tih-NITE-us or TIN-ih-tus) is characterized by ringing, buzzing, chirping, roaring, or noises that originate in the ear or the head, and can cause discomfort and stress. Tinnitus may be:

  • Intermittent, constant, or fluctuating
  • Mild or severe
  • Varied in nature, from a low roaring sensation to a high-pitched type of sound
  • Associated with a hearing loss

Though this condition is usually not life threatening, it can be a symptom of another health problem or underlying condition. Tinnitus can cause many stressful side effects such as fatigue, sleep problems, concentration difficulty, memory problems, depression, anxiety, and irritability.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus may have several underlying causes. Your doctor may begin investigating the condition by first determining your specific type of tinnitus. There are two general types of tinnitus: subjective and objective tinnitus. Most tinnitus is subjective, meaning that only you can hear the noise. But sometimes it’s objective, meaning that it may be possible for your physician to also hear the noise while performing an exam. Tinnitus can be caused by many things from certain medications to a variety of health problems. Your physician will conduct a complete medical history of your health and medications, perform a complete examination, and possibly order a hearing test.

Medical conditions that can cause tinnitus include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Blood circulation problems
  • Abnormal bone growth in the ear
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Benign tumor of the cranial nerve
  • TMJ- Temporomandibular Joint dysfunction

Non-Medical conditions reported to cause or exacerbate tinnitus include:

  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Earwax buildup
  • Stress and depression
  • Head or neck trauma
  • Alcohol

In some cases, the exact cause of the tinnitus may not be found but serious underlying conditions should be ruled out.

How is Tinnitus Treated?

Although there is no cure for tinnitus, there are several methods for relief that a Sonus® Hearing Care Professional can review with you:

  • Maskers: They look like hearing aids but produce sounds intended to divert your attention away from tinnitus.
  • Hearing Aids: These can be especially helpful if you have hearing problems as well as tinnitus.
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT): TRT helps your brain learn to ignore tinnitus. Using a device similar to a masker that produces a very soft sound, you learn to not focus on the tinnitus. After a period of time, you’re able to gradually curtail your use of the device.
  • Drug Therapy: Some prescription drugs have been shown to provide relief from tinnitus.
  • Other Successful Options: Dental treatment of jawbone problems, stress reduction exercises, biofeedback, allergy control and alternative medicine. In many cases, hearing aids can help combat tinnitus by helping you focus on sounds you want to hear.

In general, tinnitus treatments may not make the tinnitus disappear completely, but they may make it less noticeable and ease your stress and anxiety from it. Speak to Sonus Hearing Care Professionals about the best tinnitus treatment option for you.