Tinnitus 2017-03-15T23:45:29+00:00

About Tinnitus | Ringing in the Ears

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears or head where no external source is present. It is commonly described as ringing in the ears. The phantom sounds are not limited to ringing; they may sound like buzzing, clicking, roaring, hissing, or a rush of air. Approximately 50 million adult Americans report that they have experienced tinnitus, whether consistently or for short periods of time. Tinnitus may appear in one ear or both, and the sound may vary in pitch and volume between ears and over time. Tinnitus has been linked to increased stress and anxiety and may interfere with most aspects of daily life, from work to sleep.

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What causes tinnitus?

The exact physiological cause of tinnitus is not known, however there are several likely sources which are known to trigger or worsen tinnitus. In a study from 2010, researchers found that tinnitus was more prevalent within populations of adult Americans who are older, were former smokers, and adults with hypertension, hearing impairment, or loud noise exposure. Smoking and hypertension increases the risk of tinnitus due to their effects on the vascular system, constricting blood vessels within the head and neck area.

Persistent ringing in the ears is commonly linked to hearing loss; the exposure to loud noises, whether from one’s occupation or leisure activities (firearms, etc.) also increase the risk, due to damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. In some cases, changes within the ear (earwax blockage, ear bone changes) may cause tinnitus, as well as certain diseases related to the ear, such as Meniere’s disease (a condition in which excess fluid disturbs the balance within the inner ear). Head injuries and problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), where the jaw and skull connect, may also cause tinnitus.

Did you know?

  • 1 in 10 adult Americans suffer from ringing in the ears
  • 90% of Tinnitus cases occur with hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ears is sometimes the first sign of a hearing loss
  • Many patients are not offered treatment and are told to “just live with it.”
  • Tinnitus can almost always be treated and its symptoms improved.

Types of Tinnitus

There are two types of tinnitus: subjective and objective.

  • Subjective tinnitus is experienced solely by the person suffering from tinnitus. It is a personal sound only they can hear. As the more common form of this condition, subjective tinnitus is often linked to age-related or noise-induced hearing loss, in which exposure to loud sounds damage the hair cells of the inner ear. Researchers have suggested that damage to these inner ear cells cause them to send signals to the brain to register sound, even when no stimulus is present. Subject tinnitus may also be the result of head and neck trauma, Meniere’s disease, or impacted earwax.
  • Objective tinnitus can be heard by both the person with tinnitus and someone in close proximity. Often times, objective tinnitus suggests issues with the cardiovascular system. There may be abnormalities in the blood vessels of the head and neck area surrounding the ear which cause the tinnitus. In the case of pulsatile tinnitus, the sound of tinnitus matches the rhythm of a heartbeat. Spasms of muscles near the ear may cause objective tinnitus, as well as increased blood flow to the ear area due to infection.

At Hearing and Tinnitus Center of Estes Valley, we are highly experienced at helping people to reduce and manage their symptoms of tinnitus. Though there is no cure for tinnitus, there are many options for treatment to alleviate these phantom sounds, such as specialized hearing aids and sound therapy. Our audiologist, Susan Day, M.S., FAAA is passionate about helping those with tinnitus to live more comfortable and peaceful lives. We invite you to contact our practice to schedule an appointment to discuss tinnitus solutions.

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