What is Tinnitus?

Sometimes people complain about ringing sounds in their ears when there is no external source for it. The medical name for this type of ringing or swishing sound that originates in the ear or head is tinnitus. While tinnitus is not a serious disorder, it can be quite problematic and disturbing for those suffering from it. Tinnitus however is not the main disease in itself. It is often a symptom for an underlying problem.

Facts About Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a symptom associated with many forms of hearing loss. It can also be a symptom of other health problems. Roughly 25 million Americans have experienced tinnitus. Some cases are so severe that it interferes with their daily activities. People with severe cases of tinnitus may find it difficult to hear, work, or even sleep.

What causes tinnitus?

  • Hearing loss. Most people who have tinnitus also have some kind of hearing loss.
  • Loud noise. Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. Continued exposure can make the tinnitus and hearing loss get worse.
  • Medicine. More than 200 medicines, including aspirin, can cause tinnitus. If you have tinnitus and you take medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your medicine could be involved.
  • Other potential causes. Allergies, tumors, problems in the heart and blood vessels, jaws, and neck can cause tinnitus.

What should I do if I have tinnitus?

The first step is to see a Hearing care professional for an evaluation. A careful history and audiometric testing will lead to the most likely causes and best treatment for your tinnitus. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat examination to complete the diagnosis.

What can I do to help myself?

Think about things that will help you cope. Many people find listening to music very helpful. Focusing on music might help you forget about your tinnitus for a while. It can also help to mask the sound. Other people like to listen to recorded nature sounds, like ocean waves, the wind, or even crickets.

Avoid anything that can make your tinnitus worse, such as smoking, alcohol and loud noise. If you are a construction worker, an airport worker, or a hunter, or if you are regularly exposed to loud noise at home or at work, wear ear plugs or special earmuffs to protect your hearing and keep your tinnitus from getting worse.

If it is hard for you to hear over your tinnitus, ask your friends and family to face you when they talk so you can see their faces. Seeing their expressions may help you understand them better. Ask people to speak louder, but not shout. Also, tell them they do not have to talk slowly, just more clearly.

What is the next step?

Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to evaluate and discuss your Tinnitus.