What Is Tinnitus And What Can I Do About It?

by | Mar 12, 2022 | Patient Resources, Tinnitus

Tinnitus is any sound in your ears that you know isn’t in the environment around you. It can sound like ringing, buzzing, crickets, ticking, shooshing, and more, but most people experience it as a ringing noise.

It’s not just something older people experience; tinnitus can happen at any age. According to the CDC, 15% of the general public experience some form of tinnitus. That’s over 50 million Americans!

About 90% of those who have tinnitus also have a hearing loss, so it’s important to have your hearing checked professionally and have that treated, as it can often treat the tinnitus at the same time.

  • About 35 million people have a mild form of tinnitus that doesn’t affect their lives.
  • About 15 million people cannot concentrate or fall asleep because the tinnitus is so bothersome, and they seek medical help for it.
  • About 2 million people have such bad tinnitus that they are unable to perform most activities of daily living, leading to stress, anxiety, and depression.

Types Of Tinnitus

There are two types of tinnitus – subjective and objective.

  • Subjective tinnitus is the most common, and it is head noises that only the patient can hear.
  • Objective tinnitus is rare and affects only 1% of the cases. These head noises are audible to others as well, and they are usually produced by blood flow or musculoskeletal movement.

Within this category, pulsatile tinnitus is when you can hear your blood pulsating near your ear, and this could be caused by allergies, inflamed ears, an old head trauma, or an ear infection. Sometimes the tinnitus goes away when this is treated.

The most common sign of tinnitus can be when you hear noises in one or both ears.

Causes Of Tinnitus

Possible causes of tinnitus are:

  • Hearing loss due to aging or loud noise exposure
  • Stress, muscle, or jaw tension
  • Earwax buildup
  • New or ototoxic medications – often used to treat cancer, kidney disease, or heart conditions
  • Ear trauma
  • Loud noise exposure
  • Medical issues – such as Ménière’s disease, cardiovascular disease, or head injuries
  • Long-term symptoms of a COVID-19 infection

Diagnosing Tinnitus

Only a doctor can diagnose your tinnitus – your primary care doctor, ENT doctor, or audiologist.

The reason for this is to ensure that if the tinnitus is caused by a medical issue, then that will be treated first. Your audiologist will know what to look for.

Tinnitus Treatment And Management Options

There is no scientific cure for tinnitus, but there is a lot that can be done to lessen the severity of the symptoms.

  • Cut back on everything that makes the tinnitus worse – this includes loud noise exposure, stress or anxiety, sleep deprivation, some medications, high sodium intake, dehydration, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, a high sugar diet, allergies, TMJ, barometric pressure, extensive air travel, earwax buildup.
  • Treat the hearing loss – most tinnitus cases are caused by hearing loss, so the most popular treatment is treating the hearing loss by using hearing aids. Sometimes the tinnitus disappears!
  • Avail of other treatments that work – many other treatments are available to ease the burden of tinnitus, including:
    • General wellness – healthy diet, exercise, and sleep
    • Sound therapies – sound masking, white noise. Some hearing aids have this feature.
    • Behavioral therapies – retraining the brain to focus on other sounds rather than the tinnitus
    • Drug therapies – to help with any related stress, anxiety, or depression
    • TMJ treatments

The lessening of tinnitus varies according to the treatment. The American Tinnitus Association says it best: Treatments “address the attentional, emotional, and cognitive impact of tinnitus. They help patients live better, more fulfilling, and more productive lives, even if the perception of tinnitus remains.”

How To Support A Loved One With Tinnitus

Try to be patient and understanding. Tinnitus patients can have a lot of frustration and may seem irritable. Additionally, if they are not sleeping well, there is added irritability.

The best place to start is with an appointment for a hearing test. We will go over your history, evaluate the hearing and tinnitus, and then help develop a treatment plan.

You can always email any questions to hearintx@gmail.com or call or text us at 830.360.2000. We look forward to helping treat your tinnitus.

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Dr. Sally Miranda

Dr. Sally Miranda is a trusted audiologist that has dedicated most of her life to audiology and researching innovative ways to serve her patients. She has cared for thousands of ears and is recognized as a leading provider in the region.

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