Tinnitus is an extremely common symptom estimated to affect more than 44 million people across the country—that’s about 1 in every 5 adults. It is most commonly known as a ringing in the ears, although it can also manifest as a buzzing, whooshing, hissing roaring, clicking, chirping or whistling.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus isn’t actually a condition; rather, it is a symptom of many different conditions. Sometimes the cause of buzzing in the ear can be identified, but in many cases it remains unknown. For some patients, tinnitus is nothing more than a mild distraction. The symptom can be a major nuisance for others, and about 1 in 100 adults report suffering from debilitating tinnitus.
If the cause of a patient’s tinnitus can be identified, treating the underlying problem may result in alleviating the annoying sound. Some of the most common causes include:
- Noise exposure
- Head or neck trauma
- Hearing loss
- Meniere’s disease
- TMJ disorder
- Excessive earwax
- Ototoxic medications
- Acoustic neuroma
- Stress or anxiety
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
Risk factors include being male, smoking and having cardiovascular problems. In the cases in which the buzzing or ringing manifests itself for no apparent reason, there is no known cure, though sometimes it goes away on its own. If your tinnitus persists, your audiologist will work with you to develop a treatment plan.
The most common methodology for treatment is through noise suppression therapy. This technique works to draw your brain’s attention away from the distracting sound of tinnitus to more pleasant sounds produced at a specific, effective frequency. This is usually done using white noise machines or other sound masking devices, though some patients find that household appliances like fans, air conditioners or humidifiers work well. Hearing aids are another technique in noise suppression therapy; they can be turned up to produce sound that masks the ringing in the ears.
Today, audiologists are combining noise suppression therapy with counseling and education for a more complete treatment approach. This is called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. There are specialized retraining devices on the market, which work to train the brain to block out the sounds from tinnitus by changing its focus to other sound.
If you suffer from tinnitus, you don’t have to live with the stress it causes. Contact our audiologists right away to get a complete evaluation, diagnosis and treatment plan designed specifically for your needs.
A complete evaluation may include an audiological evaluation (hearing test) and evaluation by a physician (preferably an ENT) specializing in conditions related to the ear.
For further information, call us today at (415) 362-2901!