Tinnitus is not a disease, but it is a symptom of some underlying disease. A tinnitus patient hears annoying sound of ringing, buzzing, roaring etc when actually no such external sounds are present. The pitch of the sound the patient hears may vary from high squeal to low roar. This condition may come and go or may be present all the time. When non external sounds are heard by the patient only, it is known as subjective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is caused by the problems in the inner, middle and outer ears. Problems of the nerves of your inner ear or brain can also cause subjective tinnitus. But if such sounds can be heard by a surgeon who examines the patient such type of tinnitus is known as objective tinnitus. Objective tinnitus is caused by muscle contractions, condition of the inner ear bones or blood vessel problems.
Damage of inner ear cells is a common cause of tinnitus. Tiny hairs inside the inner ear move as a result of the pressure exerted by the sound waves. This movement of the hair is conveyed to the brain through electrical signals which are interpreted and understood by the brain. When the hair inside your inner ear are broken, damaged or bent, it causes changes in the signals causing your ear to hear the sounds of tinnitus. Other conditions which can cause tinnitus are explained below.
Age: As a person crosses the age of 60 he his hearing power reduces.
Hearing loss can cause tinnitus and such tinnitus is known as pesbycusis.
Loud noise: Exposure to loud noises such as that produced by heavy equipments, high power sound systems, fire arms etc can cause hearing loss. Tinnitus caused by loud noises usually goes away on its own.
Ear bones: Growth of bones in the inner ear known as otosclerosis may cause hearing loss and tinnitus.
Blood vessel disorders: Malformation of capillaries, high blood pressure, turbulent blood flow, otosclerosis etc also has been found to cause tinnitus.
Medications: Side effects of cancer medications, quinine medications, antibiotics etc also can be a cause for the occurrence of tinnitus.
Other causes: Meniere’s disease, TMJ disorders, head or neck injuries, benign tumor of the cranial nerve etc can cause tinnitus.
Doctor will conduct a detailed examination of your ears, head and neck to find out the possible causes of tinnitus. Diagnostics tests conducted for this purpose includes:
Audiological examination: In this test the ability of the patient to hear and distinguish sounds are tested by making him sit in a sound proof room and playing specific sounds through an ear phone and assessing his hearing capacity.
Movement: In this test the doctor examines the changes in the tinnitus when you move your head, neck etc or when you clench your jaw.
Imaging tests: Imaging tests like MRI or CT scans are also made use of for identifying the cause of tinnitus experienced by you.
Sound you hear: The clicking sound you hear as result of muscle contractions occurring near your ear, sound fluctuations you experience while you change position in exercising, the sound of heart beat you hear, low pitched or high pitched ringing sound that you hear etc can help to determine the underlying causes of the tinnitus you experience.
Treatment for the tinnitus is based on the underlying causes of the tinnitus experienced. They include:
a) Earwax removal: Removing the accumulated ear wax usually decreases the symptoms.
b) Treatment of the blood vessel: If the tinnitus is caused by any blood vessel problems, appropriate medications started and if necessary surgical procedures can be resorted to.
c) Changing medications: if the medications that you are currently taking is contributing to the occurrence of tinnitus, then your surgeon may ask you to stop them or your surgeon may suggest other medications.
d) Noise suppression: Use of noise suppression devices like head phones, white noise devices, noise masking devices etc are found to be very useful in controlling the problems due to tinnitus.
e) Medications: Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline and nortriptyline and alprazolam like Niravam, Xanaxarecommonly prescribed medications for tinnitus.
f) Lyfe style remedies: Reducing alcohol consumption, avoiding irritants like loud noise, caffine, nicotine, stress management etc are found to be very useful in controlling the difficulties that may be caused by tinnitus.