Tinnitus is the subjective perception of hearing noises or sounds in the absence of any external source of these sounds. Patients often describe these sounds as ringing, hissing, roaring, clicking, chirping, or buzzing. Tinnitus can occur intermittently or be a constant sensation.
There are many theories regarding the etiology of tinnitus. One common theory indicates that with hearing loss resulting from damage in the inner ear, the brain attempts to compensate for a lack of input from the outer hair cells in the inner ear by increasing neural activity, resulting in the perception of tinnitus.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be caused by damage to the inner ear or can be related to other medical conditions, so it is important to see an audiologist and an otolaryngologist for a proper evaluation and diagnosis. Many factors influence the perception of tinnitus, including stress and diet. Tinnitus can have varying effects on individuals’ everyday lives.
Conditions Associated with Tinnitus:
- Exposure to loud noises
- Hearing loss
- Ear wax blockage or foreign objects in the ear canal
- Otosclerosis (abnormal bone growth in the middle ear)
- Temporomandibular joint disorders
- Head and neck injuries
- Meniere’s disease (an inner ear disorder)
- High blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other vascular condition
- Tumors (rare)
- Certain medications
How is Tinnitus Treated?
There are a variety of treatments for tinnitus. It is important to see a specialist to learn about which options might be best for your specific condition. The goal in tinnitus treatment is to take the individual’s attention away from the perception. Some patients may be referred to a tinnitus specialist in order to better meet their specific needs.
At Annapolis Hearing Aid Associates, we may treat some tinnitus patients with amplification devices such as hearing aids or assistive listening devices. With hearing loss associated tinnitus, some patients note that tinnitus becomes less bothersome when using hearing aids, however, this effect largely depends on the individual.