Tinnitus or ringing in the ears is not always a sign of disease and can recover over time.
Symptoms of tinnitus can occur in either one ear or both ears. Tinnitus is often a symptom of an underlying condition, such as disorders of the internal organs, side effects of medications, or problems with blood vessels.
Tinnitus is triggered by fine hair cells in the inner ear that function to resolve ear pain. The ear pain affects the signals that enter the brain and affects how one hear sounds.
Tinnitus can occur in anyone of any age. The symptoms are not life-threatening. Furthermore, there are many treatment options for tinnitus.
Causes of Tinnitus (Ringing in The Ears)
Tiny, delicate hairs in your inner ear function to receive sound waves and release electrical signals to the brain. When a person has tinnitus or experiences ringing in the ears, these hair cells are damaged.
The inner ear hair cell damage results in “leaking” random electrical impulses to the brain, causing tinnitus.
The symptoms of tinnitus are generally associated with other health conditions that cause ringing in the ears. Here are what may trigger tinnitus:
- High blood pressure.
- Jaw pain.
- Sinusitis-relaed conditions.
- Earwax build-up.
- Age-related hearing loss.
- Side effects of certain drugs such as aspirin and antibiotics.
- Loud sounds at concert venues, sporting events, and parties.
- Effects of other health conditions such as head and neck injuries, fibromyalgia, and Meniere’s disease.
In some cases, tinnitus can also be caused by other factors such as:
- Abnormal blood vessels.
- Tumors that cause pressure on the blood vessels around the head and neck.
- Cholesterol buildup in the blood vessels around the head and neck, especially near the inner and middle ear.
- Narrowing of blood vessels in the neck resulting in impaired blood flow.
When to See a Doctor for Tinnitus (Ringing in The Ears)?
An ENT (ear, nose, & throat) specialist doctor can provide the diagnosis of tinnitus. The doctor will conduct a medical interview to confirm the patient’s medical history.
Patients diagnosed with tinnitus should be cooperative by providing clear information about the symptoms experienced and the medications consumed.
If the doctor confirms that the patient indeed has symptoms of tinnitus, the doctor will then look inside the patient’s ear. This is done to determine if the causation factor of tinnitus is a curable trigger, such as an ear infection or earwax buildup.
A follow-up examination by an ENT specialist can be done through an audiometry test – a test to determine the type and degree of hearing loss. If the symptoms worsen, the doctor may recommend further tests via a CT scan or MRI.
You should see a specialist doctor if:
- Tinnitus symptoms occur continuously.
- Tinnitus symptoms get worse.
- Tinnitus symptoms affect sleep patterns and concentration.
- Symptoms of tinnitus appear after respiratory infections.
- You experience high blood pressure.
Symptoms of Tinnitus (Ringing in The Ears)
Symptoms of tinnitus involve sounds that you receive – such as ringing, noise, whistling, hissing, rumbling, or other sounds that cause discomfort.
Only tinnitus sufferers can hear those sounds. However, in some cases, the doctor can hear the sounds through a stethoscope placed in your ear.
Sounds caused by tinnitus can occur in either one ear or both ears. Over time, the sound can be very loud, but it can also be very soft. The sensation of a very loud sound can interfere with the patient’s daily activities. This may lead to difficulty sleeping and difficulty concentrating.
Tinnitus has both long-term and short-term symptoms.
Treatment for Tinnitus (Ringing in The Ears)
Treatment for tinnitus varies – depending on what triggers the tinnitus symptoms. In general, tinnitus is not a life-threatening disease and can resolve on its own over time.
In cases of tinnitus caused by earwax buildup, treatment can be carried out by cleaning the ears using a vacuum. Meanwhile, tinnitus caused by ear infections can be treated with oral treatment (medications) and ear drops.
Medicines to treat tinnitus include:
- Tricyclic antidepressant. This medicine is only used for symptoms of acute tinnitus because it has fatal side effects such as dry mouth, blurred vision, and heart disease.
- Alprazolam. This medicine can relieve symptoms of tinnitus but cause side effects of drowsiness and nausea. In addition, this drug can also be addictive
If the cause of tinnitus or ringing in the ears is unknown, the doctor will recommend therapies such as:
- Tinnitus counseling. This helps patients recognize the symptoms of tinnitus and how to deal with them.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). A therapy done to change the way patients think about tinnitus and reduce anxiety disorders due to tinnitus.
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. A therapy using sound waves to retrain the brain to hear sounds and ignore tinnitus.
- Sound therapy. This therapy uses other sounds to mask tinnitus. This can be done using the sound of rain or waves.
In some cases, if tinnitus occurs due to a life-threatening disease such as a tumor, a surgical procedure may be done to treat the tinnitus.
Treatment Cost for Tinnitus (Ringing in The Ears)
The cost for Tinnitus treatment varies, depending on the symptoms and the patient’s condition.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of Tinnitus treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Tinnitus (Ringing in The Ears)
In some cases, tinnitus cannot be prevented, particularly so if the tinnitus symptoms are triggered by an underlying condition. However, tinnitus caused by ear infections or accumulated earwax can be avoided by:
- Maintaining ear hygiene
- Preventing dirty objects from entering the ear.
- Routinely cleaning the ears to prevent dirt buildup on the inside of the ears.
Here are some other precautions to help prevent tinnitus:
- Avoid tinnitus trigger factors, such as certain medications, caffeine, and loud noise.
- Spend less time in places with loud sounds, such as at concerts or parties.
- Cover up noise by playing soft music at a low volume.
- Managing stress with relaxation and exercise.
- Reducing alcohol consumption, as alcohol can increase the dilation of blood vessels and cause heavy blood flow, especially in the inner ear
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Tinnitus (Ringing in The Ears)
A home remedy that you can try to treat tinnitus is by reducing loud noises around the house. Certain sounds such as a fan, soft music, or low-volume radio static may help mask the noise from tinnitus symptoms for some time.
Home care treatment for tinnitus can also be practised through yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.