Tinnitus, often referred to as a ringing in the ears, is a common issue that affects up to 50 million Americans. The noise may appear in one or both ears, and is described as a whistling, buzzing, whooshing, roaring or hissing sound. It is not a condition, but a symptom of another disease.
While the exact physiological cause or causes are not known there are several likely sources, all of which are known to trigger or worsen tinnitus.
- Nose exposure. Exposure to loud noises can damage and even destroy hair cells, called cilia, in the inner ear. Once damaged, these hair cells do not regrow.
- Physical trauma to the head and neck can induce tinnitus. Other symptoms include headaches, vertigo, and memory loss.
- disorders, such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and thoracic outlet syndrome, can have tinnitus as a symptom. When tinnitus is a symptom of another disorder, treating the disorder can help alleviate the tinnitus.
- Some types of tumors.
- Build up of earwax in the ear canal.
- Misalignment of the jaw.
- Cardiovascular diseases.
- Ototoxic medicines. Some medications are toxic to the ear, known as “Ototoxic Medications”. Other medications will produce tinnitus as a side effect without causing actual damaging the inner ear. These effects, which can depend on the dosage of the medication, can be temporary or permanent. Before taking any medication, make sure that your physician is aware of your tinnitus, and discuss alternative medications that may be available.
If possible, the underlying condition responsible for your symptoms should be identified and treated directly. The solution may be as simple as removing built up earwax or switching to a different medication.
When the the cause of tinnitus is unknown or untreatable, noise suppression techniques can be deployed. This involves the use of an electronic device to generate white noise, which masks the ringing in your ears, making it less annoying. You can also try using a fan, humidifier or air conditioner to achieve the same effect.
Other treatment options include hearing aids and tinnitus retraining devices that rely on patterned tones to divert your brain’s attention.