Tagged: ringing in the ears

What Causes Tinnitus?

August 8, 2016

Tinnitus itself is not a disease process but a symptom of an underlying issue. A number of health conditions can cause or worsen tinnitus, an annoying ringing, buzzing or hissing sound that occurs in the ears of nearly 50 million Americans. In many cases, an exact cause is never found. If you experience tinnitus, you shouldn’t worry. Very rarely is tinnitus caused by something that is dangerous to your health. Understanding what tinnitus is and what could possibly cause it or exacerbate it can help alleviate some of the stress and irritation that most tinnitus sufferers report experiencing.

A common cause of tinnitus is damage to the inner ear hair cells of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped cavity in the bone of the skull just behind the ear that resembles a snail shell and contains nerve endings essential for hearing. These tiny, delicate hairs sit in a fluid and move in relation to the pressure of sound waves through the fluid. This movement triggers an electrical signal through the auditory nerve that travels from the ear to the brain. The brain then interprets these signals as sound. If the hairs inside the cochlea are bent or broken, they can produce random electrical impulses to the brain, which are then interpreted as sound. This sound is what we call tinnitus.

Other causes of tinnitus include middle ear problems, chronic health conditions and injuries to or conditions that affect the auditory nerve or the hearing center of the brain.

Common causes of tinnitus
In most instances, the exact cause of tinnitus is unknown. There are some health conditions, however, that are known to cause tinnitus:

Exposure to loud sounds: Long-term noise exposure on the job is a leading cause of hearing loss, especially in men. Loud noises from industrial equipment, construction sights and from the use of firearms by our military are common sources of noise-related hearing loss. Personal music players, such as MP3 players or iPods can cause noise induced hearing loss over time as well. Tinnitus can also occur with short-term exposure to loud noise. For instance, you may experience a ringing in the ears after attending a loud concert. This type of tinnitus usually goes away within hours while long-term exposure to loud sound can cause permanent damage.
Excessive earwax: Earwax protects your ear canal by trapping dirt or other intruders and by helping to slow the growth of the bacteria and fungus that naturally occur in the ear. When too much earwax accumulates, however, it can be difficult for the ear to rid itself of the wax, which occurs naturally with time. Excessive wax accumulation can cause hearing loss and a low pitched ringing or roaring in the affected ear.
Changes in the bones of the middle ear: Stiffening of the joints between the bones of the middle ear, the smallest bones of the body, is called otosclerosis. This stiffness happens gradually and may affect hearing as well as cause tinnitus. This condition, often referred to as arthritis of the middle ear tends to run in families.
Age-related hearing loss: Accumulation of birthdays happens to the best of us. For many people, hearing worsens as those birthdays accumulate. Hearing loss in the high frequencies is the most common cause of tinnitus. The medical term for hearing loss due to the aging process is presbycusis.
Stress: It is suggested that stress increases pressure on the nerves that run up the back of the neck, increasing the likelihood of tinnitus. The exact source is unknown but increased tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders is common in those who are exposed to situations of excessive long-term stress.

Less common causes of tinnitus
Some causes of tinnitus are less common and in most cases, the causes of the tinnitus are a more important focus than the tinnitus itself.

Meniere’s disease: This disorder of the inner ear balance system causes an excessive accumulation of fluid in the inner ear. The tinnitus experienced by those with Meniere’s disease is often described as a low-pitched roar.
Jaw disorders: The temperomandibular joint (TMJ) juts up into the ear canal when the mouth is opened widely. In some instances, disorders of this joint can cause ringing in the ears.
Traumatic injury to the head or neck: Most commonly caused by sudden trauma, injuries to the head or neck can cause neurological disorders that can affect the organs of the inner ear or the auditory nerve itself. In some instances, traumatic injury can cause dysfunction in the area of the brain that processes sound. These type of injuries most commonly cause ringing in only one ear.
Tumor: An acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous tumor that develops on the auditory nerve, can cause tinnitus in the ear that has the tumor.
Blood flow issues: With the aging process, it is not uncommon to develop a buildup of deposits, called plaque in the major blood vessels of the body. If a buildup happens close to the middle or inner ear, the blood vessels lose the ability to flex or expand optimally with each heartbeat. This can cause blood flow to become more forceful, making it easier for the ear to detect the beats. This type of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus.
Medications: Take a look at the side effects of most prescription medications and you might be surprised at how many have the possible side effect of tinnitus. In general, a physician isn’t as concerned with causing tinnitus as treating the symptoms of a disease or condition. Generally speaking, the higher the dose of a medication, the worse the tinnitus becomes. Often the unwanted noise disappears when the medication is stopped. If you experience tinnitus, talk to your doctor about other alternatives. If your curious about the medications you are currently taking, visit drugwatch.com for the side effects associated with the most commonly prescribed medications.

If you have tinnitus, talk to your doctor or hearing healthcare provider. He or she will make sure to pursue every avenue to determine what is causing the ringing in your ears. Although tinnitus is not often curable, talking with your healthcare provider can start you down the right path toward finding a solution or, in the least, increasing your understanding of what may be causing it and what you need to do to relieve the stress and irritation that tinnitus often causes. Call today and make an appointment for a tinnitus evaluation. We’ll be happy to help.

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What Is Tinnitus?

May 30, 2016

 
When a ringing sound starts in your ear (or ears) for no apparent reason and no one else seems to hear it, it can be disconcerting. What’s wrong? Is it going to go away? What caused it? If you’re asking these sorts of questions, you’re not alone. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that nearly 50 million Americans experience some sort of head noise to some degree at least occasionally. 1 Of the 50 million sufferers of tinnitus, nearly 16 million experience it severely enough to seek medical attention.

Tinnitus, pronounced as either tinn-ITUS or tinn-i-tus is noise that originates within the ear rather than from the outside environment. The sound itself is different for each person and is often described as a buzzing, ringing, humming or hissing sound.

There are two different types of tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is a sound only you can hear. This is the most common type of tinnitus. Objective tinnitus, on the other hand, is ear noise that is loud enough to be audible to other people. These sounds can be recorded using a sensitive microphone, but there have been cases where the sounds are loud enough that the tinnitus could be heard just standing close to the ear of the person whose ear is producing it. It is theorized that objective tinnitus is produced by the outer hair cells of the cochlea in the inner ear. In rare cases, vascular or neurological disorders can cause objective tinnitus as well.

Tinnitus can be described in many different ways. Tonal tinnitus produces a continuous, usually high-pitched sound, as if a single note on the piano continues to play without stopping. Pulsatile tinnitus is generally heard in an “on-off” pattern that often follows the heartbeat. Less commonly is a type of tinnitus that is described as a beeping sound that seems reminiscent of Morse code. Still others describe their tinnitus as having a musical quality. Imagine hearing the same music notes over and over again. It might be okay if it sounded like your favorite band or a rendition of La Boheme by Pavarotti, but generally, tinnitus with a musical quality is random and indistinguishable, which can itself be irritating. However it is experienced, tinnitus is aggravating for most sufferers. If you have ringing in the ears, schedule an appointment with your hearing healthcare provider to learn what you might be able to do to alleviate or reduce the annoying sounds of tinnitus.

1 Data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Sudden Hearing Loss – A True Emergency

March 28, 2016

 
Sudden hearing loss can be a scary thing. It can happen all at once or over a period of several days. In either case, it should be considered a true emergency and requires a visit to a doctor or audiologist immediately. An audiologist may be able to see you more quickly than your regular physician and with sudden hearing loss time is of the essence. Your audiologist will perform several diagnostic tests and will be able to determine if you need to see a specialist immediately or if the cause of the hearing loss is something as simple as a wax impaction, which can be treated while in the office. If the hearing loss is due to an infection and you do not see your doctor or audiologist within the first 72-hours after the hearing loss begins, the hearing loss may become permanent.

When hearing loss happens suddenly, it affects only one ear in 9 out of 10 people. Many people notice it when they wake up in the morning. Others will first notice it when they try to use the phone or when they can’t hear their alarm when one ear (the better hearing ear) is face-down into their pillow. It’s also not uncommon for someone with sudden hearing loss to experience dizziness or a ringing in the affected ear, called tinnitus, at the same time that the hearing loss is recognized.

There are many different causes for a sudden hearing loss but often, the specific cause is never identified. It is possible that the hearing loss is something as simple as wax in the ear canal or fluid behind the eardrum. But, the more sinister causes require immediate treatment by a physician. In fact, the sooner treatment is begun, the more likely hearing will be restored. If you’ve experienced a sudden change in your hearing, don’t wait to call your physician or audiologist. The sooner you make an appointment, the better.

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