Incidence
Tinnitis (ringing in the ear or head noises) afflicts nearly 36 million people in the U.S. alone. Tinnitis is a symptom and not a disease. It is described clinically as a subjective perception of sound in the absence of external noise.These sounds can be intermittent or continuous and the intensity and characteristics of the sound can vary widely. It is important that a thorough examination by an ENT specialist and audiologist be performed to rule out any serious problems that could be causing the tinnitis symptoms.


Usual Causes
Various parts of the hearing system anatomy or adjacent structures are usually responsible for the symptom. The inner ear is frequently involved in older people who complain of tinnitis. This is because of loss of specialized cells (hair cells) located within the inner ear due to aging. Often the tinnitis in this older population is accompanied by age related hearing loss (presbycusis). In these patients the pitch of the tinnitis is often related to the region of haircell loss within the inner ear. Younger age people are now experiencing tinnitis than ever before. This is due to the widespread use of MP3 players and hand held game programs used with ear buds in this age population. 

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Types of Tinnitis

1.Subjective tinnitis (heard or perceived only by the patient) may also be caused by ear wax that contacts the ear drum and changes how the ear drum vibrates. Loose hairs within the ear canal can also migrate down to touch the ear drum and cause tinnitis. Middle ear infections,  buildup of new boney tissue around the middle ear bones (otosclerosis), or muscle spasms in one of the two tiny muscles located within the middle ear can also cause tinnitis. The latter middle ear cause of tinnitis may also cause another type of tinnittis called objective tinnitis.  

2.Objective tinnitis (heard or perceived by the patient and the examiner) is more rare and often associated with a sound resembling the pulse or heartbeat of those afflicted with this symptom. Often this is due to negative pressure in the middle ear which causes retraction of the ear drum and proximity to a small artery that passes near one of the three small bones (stapes) in that region. It also , however, can signal the presence of a vascular tumor within the middle ear or adjacent skull bones or neck vessels. If this symptom is heard in only one ear it should prompt an appointment with an ENT specialist for further evaluation.

Ear Related Causes of Tinnitis
Conditions that affect the hearing or auditory nerve (cochlea) can also cause tinnitis, the most common of these are a benign tumor called an acoustic neuroma or vestibular schwannoma. Tinnitis in these cases are usually, but not always, unilateral. Other lesions located within this area of the brain that controls hearing (temporal lobe), skull fractures, and neck whiplash injuries can also cause tinnitis symptoms. Special inner ear testing and CT or MRI scans are needed to diagnose these potential causes of tinnitis.

Non Ear Related Causes of Tinnitis
There are a number of non-auditory causes of tinnitis: Life style factors, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, stress, fatigue, poor diet, and many over the counter products (aspirin, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco products) to name a few. Many people afflicted with tinnitis can reduce the severity or frequency of the symptom by observing  the following tips:

  • Avoid exposure to loud sounds or noises.
  • Get your blood pressure checked and take meds to control it if high.
  • Decrease your salt intake - it impairs blood circulation.
  • Avoid stimulants like coffee, tea, colas, aspirin, caffeine, and tobacco.
  • Exercise daily to increase circulation and blood flow.
  • Get adequate rest and avoid fatigue.
  • Try Yoga or other concentration and meditation exercises to teach yourself to reduce your stress level.
  • Stop worrying about the noise and learn to ignore it as much as possible.
  • Use products that mask tinnitis at night when it is quiet and the noise is most noticeable.
  • Try some newer over the counter drugs (Lipoflavinoids,Arches) that reportedly help alleviate tinnitis. 

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If the above measures are not satisfactory or the tinnitis symptoms worsen, please call our office for an appointment with Dr Sciacca or one of our associated audiologist for a thorough examination.

For more information about tinnitis

 

4501 Southlake Pkwy
Suite #200
Hoover, AL 35244