Common questions about Tinnitus

What is tinnitus? Is it common?

Tinnitus is the name for noises we hear in the ear or in the head in the absence of an external sound. This means that no one can hear it except the affected individual.  Nearly 20% of adults suffer from this discomfort at some point in their life. Tinnitus may come and go, or it may be a continuous sound.

It can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal or whine, and you may hear it in one or both ears.  When the ringing is constant, it can be annoying and distracting.  A number are afflicted so severely that they cannot lead normal lives.

What causes tinnitus?

There are many causes for subjective tinnitus, the noise only you can hear.  Some causes are not minor such as ear wax. Tinnitus can also be a symptom of more serious middle ear problems such as infection, a hole in the eardrum, and middle ear fluid build up, or stiffening (otosclerosis) of the middle ear bones.

Medical conditions such as allergy, high or low blood pressure (blood circulation problems),  tumour, diabetes, thyroid problems, injury to the head and neck, and medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, sedatives/antidepressants, and aspirin can cause tinnitus.

Treatment will be quite different in each case.  It is important to see an ENT doctor to investigate the cause of your tinnitus so that the best treatment can be determined.

What are the common causes according to age?

For all ages: Most tinnitus comes from damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear.  The health of these nerve endings is important for acute hearing, and injury to them brings on hearing loss and often tinnitus.

If you’re older: Advancing age is generally accompanied by a certain amount of hearing nerve impairment and tinnitus.

If you’re younger: Exposure to loud noises such as a noisy club, rock concerts, and loud music from ear phones can cause temporary or permanent tinnitus depending on length and intensity of exposure. It is probably the leading cause of tinnitus and often damages hearing as well.

When should you see an ENT doctor?

If the tinnitus is persistent (more than one month) or is especially bothersome or associated with hearing loss and dizziness, it should be evaluated.

What is the treatment?

 

In most cases, there is no specific treatment for ear and head noises.  If your ENT doctor finds a specific cause of your tinnitus, he/she may be able to eliminate the noise. X-rays, hearing tests, balance tests, and blood tests may be required. Medications may help.

The following list of do’s and don’ts can help lessen the severity of tinnitus.

  1. Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises
  2. Check and control your blood pressures
  3. Lower salt intake
  4. Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola and tobacco.
  5. Exercises to improve circulation
  6. Get adequate rest.  Avoid fatigue.
  7. Eliminating stress and worry

What can help me cope?

Relaxation Techniques: This achieves a decrease focus on tinnitus and decreases the perceived intensity.

Masking

Tinnitus is usually more bothersome in quiet surroundings such as nighttime.  A second sound at a constant low level, such as a ticking clock or radio static (white noise), may mask the tinnitus and make it less noticeable.

Hearing aids

If you have a hearing loss, a hearing aid can improve hearing and diminish the tinnitus.

Summary

Prior to any treatment of tinnitus, it is important that you have a thorough examination and evaluation by your ENT doctor.

Book an appointment with HealthSense Specialist Dr. YT Pang to look at your ENT problems and get cured.