What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a condition characterized by a constant ringing, clicking, or another annoying sound in one or both ears that can only be heard by the individual affected. 

While it seems like it might not be a big deal, this tiny, sometimes barely noticeable sound can significantly affect an individual’s quality of life in a very negative way. Some describe the sound as a ringing in the ear but clicking, whistling, hissing, buzzing, or even a pulsing sound have also been reported. For some, the sounds come and go but unfortunately, others may experience symptoms constantly 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Left untreated, the effects of tinnitus can include: 

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Stress
  • Problems sleeping 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Depression
  • Headaches

What Causes Tinnitus?

While several things can contribute to tinnitus, the most common cause is prolonged exposure to loud noise. Hearing may be temporarily or permanently damaged, depending upon the duration and severity of the noise.

Tinnitus usually indicates an inner-ear problem. The cause of tinnitus is still not fully understood and the mechanisms that cause tinnitus in the brain and inner ear are being more closely studied. 

Possible causes of Tinnitus include:

  • Loud noises
  • Certain medications 
  • Head Trauma
  • Stress
  • Certain foods
  • Blockage of the eardrum 
  • Disorders of the Temporomandibular Joint
  • Hearing loss

Those who experience more of a pulsating sound, may have pulsatile tinnitus, a rare condition, caused by a blood vessel disorder. Tumors of the head or neck, buildup of cholesterol in the arteries, high blood pressure, or malformations of the capillaries surrounding the ear can all contribute to pulsatile tinnitus

How Is Tinnitus Treated?

While currently, there is no cure for tinnitus there are ways to dramatically reduce the sound and effects of tinnitus. The specialists at The ENT Centers of North Texas will work with you to identify potential causes of your tinnitus and find a way to reduce the impact of is on your daily life.  

Tinnitus Treatments

  • Masking: An electronic device called a masker may be worn to distract from the ringing sensation. Maskers fit in the ear similarly to hearing aids and produce low-level sounds. In addition, bedside sound generators and other devices can also help remove the perception of ringing.
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy: This therapeutic process is a combination of sound therapy and counseling, which alters the brain’s neural signals and weakens the perception of tinnitus, allowing you to live your daily life with more peace. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A type of counseling that helps to change the body’s emotional reaction to tinnitus by altering negative thought patterns and helping relieve stress.

For some, changes to diet or medications may help with symptoms. Relaxation methods, such as meditation, have also been shown to help alleviate the constant annoying sounds of tinnitus.

For many, the distressing combination of tinnitus and hearing loss can be relieved with hearing technology. The primary treatment for tinnitus with hearing loss is the use of a personal hearing system, which can improve your hearing and often reduce or eliminate your perception of tinnitus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there medications for tinnitus?

Medications and supplements advertised online to “cure tinnitus” are usually based on limited data or just junk “science” with no real evidence to support their claims. Some medications may actually cause tinnitus. Our specialists can help identify which medications (including OTC and supplements) may be contributing to your tinnitus and provide guidance on how to stop or reduce those medications. There are also some medications that can help reduce the effects of tinnitus on the body. 

Are there things I can do to reduce tinnitus?

After you’ve had an exam and medical conditions that cause tinnitus have been ruled out, there are a few things you can do that might help lessen symptoms. These include: wearing ear protection and reducing exposure to loud noises, lowering your blood pressure, consuming less salt, and limiting your alcohol intake.

Is there a specific test for tinnitus?

Unfortunately, no. Since tinnitus can only be heard by the individual experiencing it, it is difficult to specifically measure or identify. Certain conditions such as blood vessel abnormalities, inner-ear bone problems may help locate a source of tinnitus but otherwise, diagnosis depends mostly on the patient’s report of their symptoms. 

Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?

No, but tinnitus can be an early symptom of hearing loss.

Why is tinnitus worse at night?

Most people indicate that their tinnitus is worse at night. This is usually because most people are still and the environment is quieter at night. Sounds that occupy most people’s lives will often mask tinnitus to some degree. Sometimes, if tinnitus is stress related, the cumulative stress of the day may make tinnitus worse at night. 

Don’t let tinnitus steal your peace. Contact The ENT Centers of North Texas today for an in-depth evaluation by one of our caring ENT specialists or audiologists.