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Tinnitus

Tinnitus:

Do you experience ringing in your ears? Does it sound like an insect is constantly buzzing by your head?  If so, you may be suffering from what is known as tinnitus.  Tinnitus is the perception of sound without an external noise being present.  Over 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, and about 1 in 5 adults have bothersome tinnitus which negatively affects their quality of life.  Tinnitus is not a disease in and of itself; rather it is a symptom that is most commonly associated with the hearing system.

Tinnitus can be caused by different parts of the hearing system. For instance, an excess buildup of wax can lead to tinnitus, as can middle ear infections.  Medications can also sometimes cause tinnitus.  One of the most common medications known to cause tinnitus is aspirin.  Most tinnitus is due to problems with the inner ear and is related to hearing loss. As we age, the incidence of tinnitus increases.

Pulsatile tinnitus, or tinnitus that sounds like your heartbeat, is a special category of tinnitus. In this instance, the tinnitus may signal the presence of vascular abnormality in the middle or inner ear.  If you experience this type of tinnitus, you should see your ENT as soon as possible for a full evaluation.

Unilateral (or tinnitus only in one ear) tinnitus may also signal the presence of an abnormality, such as a benign tumor, on or near your hearing nerve. Again, your physician will work with you to determine if this is the cause.

Tinnitus can commonly be affected or exacerbated by stress, fatigue, poor diet and exercise, and excess caffeine intake.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure for tinnitus, although there are several management techniques that can help minimize it. Here are some tips to help you cope:

  • If your doctor determines that hearing loss is present, a hearing aid can be helpful
  • White noise or background noise (such as a fan or TV) can help minimize tinnitus; distraction techniques help keep you from focusing on the tinnitus
  • Avoid stress as much as possible
  • Research relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga, as these have been shown to be beneficial in reducing subjective tinnitus
  • Avoid caffeine – stimulants have been known to temporarily worsen tinnitus in some people

If you experience any of these symptoms, or you are bothered by your tinnitus, call our office today to schedule a visit. Our doctors are expertly trained in this subject and will work with you to determine the cause of and best treatment plan for your tinnitus.