Tinnitus refers to the medical condition where one perceives sounds in their ears or head that is not from an external source. The noise may seem to be coming from one or both ears, inside your head, or from a distance. People with the condition experience tinnitus as:
Kinds Of Tinnitus
There are two main kinds of tinnitus:
- Subjective tinnitus – This is tinnitus that only the patient can hear. It’s caused by ear problems in the middle, outer or inner ear and is the most common type of tinnitus.
- Objective tinnitus – This rare kind of tinnitus can be heard by a doctor when they perform an examination. It’s usually caused by a middle ear bone condition, a blood vessel problem, or muscle contractions.
What are the symptoms of tinnitus
Although the condition affects people in different ways, tinnitus can have a negative impact on sufferers’ quality of life. Symptoms of tinnitus include:
- A noise that may be described as a ringing sound, buzzing, hissing, whistling, roaring, chirping, shrieking, or even humming.
- Memory problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Sleep problems
- Anxiety and irritability
Treating these symptoms may not have direct effect tinnitus. But it may improve your general well-being.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be categorised either as short-lived or chronic (long-lived). Several health issues can worsen the condition. Despite most of the time, the exact cause of tinnitus is never known. The most common causes of tinnitus include:
1. Exposure To Loud Noise
It’s usually normal to experience tinnitus after being exposed to loud noise for a short period, such as after attending a loud concert. This kind of tinnitus should go away after a period of time. However, there are some cases where both short and long-term exposure can cause permanent damage.
Tinnitus can be a side-effect of some medication such as aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Especially when taken in high doses. This kind of tinnitus should not be a major cause of concern as it should go away after you stop taking the medication.
3. Blood Vessel Disorders
Although such cases are rare, there are times where tinnitus is caused by a blood vessel disorder. This kind of tinnitus is known as pulsatile tinnitus.
4. Age-related Hearing Loss
Hearing worsens with age for the majority of people. Hearing loss typically starts around age 60. In some cases, it can result in tinnitus, a condition known as presbycusis.
5. Earwax Blockage
Earwax has a major function which is trapping dirt as well as slowing the growth of bacteria. But accumulating too much earwax can be a major problem as it becomes difficult to wash away naturally. This results in irritation of the eardrum or hearing loss that can lead to tinnitus.
6. Ear Bone Changes
Otosclerosis is the stiffening of the bones in the middle ear. This can affect someone’s hearing and result in tinnitus. This is a genetic condition and is usually as a result of abnormal growth of bones.
7. Additional Causes
There are other less common factors that can cause tinnitus. They include the following:
- TMJ disorders
- Meniere’s disease
- Acoustic neuroma
- Muscle spasms in the inner ear
- Head or neck injuries
- Eustachian tube dysfunction
- Emotional stress
What Are the Main Factors?
Tinnitus can affect anyone, but the following factors will heighten the risk:
- Prolonged exposure to loud noise
- Ageing persons
- Cardiovascular issues
- Sex (men are considered to be more likely to experience tinnitus)
How Is Diagnosis Done
If you suspect you have tinnitus, the first thing you should do is visit your GP. They will check your ear for common issues that can be treated. If required, they will refer you to a specialist for further tests. The main tests performed to identify the possible causes of tinnitus include:
The doctor may ask you to move your arms and legs, neck, eyes, or clench your jaw. If there are some changes or the condition worsens, there may be an underlying disorder that needs to be treated.
2. Hearing Test
A hearing test is an effective way of ruling out or identifying the possible causes of tinnitus. It involves using the sound from the earphones in a soundproof room. The patient will be required to indicate when they hear a sound. The results are then compared to the results that are considered normal for your age to try and identify any abnormalities.
3. Imaging test
Your doctor may decide to perform scans such as CT or MRI scans depending on the suspected cause of your tinnitus.
4. Additional tests
The doctor will also use the sounds you usually hear to try and establish the reason behind your tinnitus condition. These sounds include but are not limited to the following:
- Rushing or humming
- High-pitched ringing
- Low-pitched ringing
Most of the time, the reason behind tinnitus is never established. In such cases, your doctor will discuss with you the various steps you should take to cope better with the noise, or reduce the severity of tinnitus.
That’s about everything you need to know about tinnitus. If you ever suspect that you are suffering from the condition, please seek medical advice. That way, your doctor can find out whether you really have tinnitus as well as come up with solutions to the condition you are suffering from.
If you have any enquiry, please get in touch with us on 01234 348144, we’re always happy to help.