Tinnitus

Tinnitus (Ringing In The Ears)

Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that has no external source. Some of the more common sounds reported are ringing, humming, buzzing, or cricket-like. It can be constant or intermittent and is heard in one ear, both ears, or in the head. Tinnitus can originate in the middle ear (behind the eardrum) or in the inner ear (cochlea), which can also be referred to as sensorineural hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL, happens after inner ear damage occurs. Problems with the nerve pathways from your inner ear to your brain can also cause SNHL. Soft sounds may be hard to hear. Even louder sounds may be unclear or may sound muffled.

We’re here to help. If you feel you’re experiencing these symptoms, set up an appointment with us. Together, we’ll get to the bottom of it!


The Most Common Causes Are:


Noise exposure (e.g. from shooting or machines at work)

A natural part of the aging process

Head injury (e.g. from a car accident or fall)

As a side effect of medications (e.g. aspirin — see ototoxic drugs)


It is important to keep in mind that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. As such, the optimal treatment strategy should be directed toward eliminating the disease, rather than simply alleviating the symptom. Also, because it may be symptomatic of a more serious disorder, it is important to try to find the medical cause before deciding on treatment.


Preventing and Minimizing Tinnitus

Here are a few things you can do to help prevent and minimize tinnitus:

Reduce exposure to extremely loud noise

Avoid total silence

Decrease salt intake

Monitor your blood pressure

Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine

Exercise

Reduce fatigue

Manage stress

Educate yourself


While there is no known cure for most forms of tinnitus, these are several management options available. Most sufferers can find varying degrees of relief from one or a combination of the above.


Medications

There is no medication or herbal supplement medically proven to alleviate tinnitus symptoms. Some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are helpful for certain patients, however, more research is needed in this area. We recommend scheduling an appointment with us—we can evaluate your tinnitus and make recommendations for possible steps forward to hearing health. Give us a shout today!


Hyperacusis

The term hyperacusis is generally applied to people who experience the sounds of everyday life as intrusively loud, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful. Some people notice an increase in sensitivity after they have had a difficult life event, for example, bereavement. In many people, though, there is no clear reason why hyperacusis started.

Hyperacusis affects people in different ways. For some people, it is a minor annoyance, but other people find it really difficult to live with. Some people with hyperacusis withdraw from social and professional activities and become isolated; this can make the problem worse as they become fearful and anxious. Therapy often involves addressing these fears and anxieties.

The management of hyperacusis usually involves the treatment of any medical conditions associated with the condition, counseling, and often the use of sound therapy.

There are a few medical conditions that have hyperacusis as a symptom, so it is important to get a medical opinion. Medical conditions that are on occasion associated with altered sound tolerance include migraines, post-head injury syndrome, Lyme disease, William’s syndrome, and Bell’s palsy. People who find it difficult to process sensory information (eg: those with autistic spectrum disorder) can also find hyperacusis a problem. Sometimes people experience hyperacusis after certain types of ear surgery.

Exposure to sudden loud noise can sometimes trigger hyperacusis. For some, a negative life event appears to be associated with the onset, but for many people, no clear reason can be identified.

There are several theories about the mechanisms that underlie hyperacusis. What they share in common is that hyperacusis is usually associated with increased sensitivity (or auditory gain) in the central auditory system (the hearing pathways in the brain). This sensitivity can be influenced by mood.

If you are concerned about your tolerance to noise, let us help! Schedule an appointment with our Doctors of audiology today. We’re here to help.

(Source: British Tinnitus Association)


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