When a person complains of ringing in their ears, they are usually diagnosed with a condition called tinnitus. Considered both a neurological and audiological condition, tinnitus is quite common. According to the American Tinnitus Association, 50 million people in the United States have some form of tinnitus. This equals about 15 percent of the country's population.
To help you better understand this bothersome condition, here are the answers to three frequently asked questions about tinnitus.
1. What Are the Symptoms of Tinnitus?
Besides ringing in the ears, some people with tinnitus might experience other sounds, such as hissing or buzzing. People with tinnitus have different perceptions of sounds in their ears. Some of these perceptions of sound include:
- Tonal. Near continuous sounds in the ears with fluctuating volumes.
- Pulsatile. Pulsating sounds in the ears that beat to the rhythm of their heart.
- Musical. Musical sounds in the ears or the sound of singing.
Tinnitus does not pose any major health risks. However, severe conditions impede one's quality of life. Some people might feel they are going crazy by constantly hearing sounds that nobody else can hear.
2. What Causes Tinnitus?
There are different types of tinnitus and each of them are caused by something different. Here some types of tinnitus and their causes:
- Subjective. Caused by age-related hearing loss or noise-induced hearing loss.
- Neurological. Caused by conditions that affect the brain.
- Somatic. Caused by damage to the sensory system.
Other causes of tinnitus might include medication, wax buildup, benign tumors, TMJ, sinus pressure, and barometric trauma. Tinnitus can be an underlying symptom of other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, Lyme disease, blood vessel disorders, and psychiatric disorders.
3. What Are Some Types of Tinnitus Treatment?
Tinnitus treatment often depends upon the cause. For people who have tinnitus due to hearing loss, hearing aids can help. Some hearing aids come equipped with different sound signals. These signals come in the form of either soothing or static sounds. These sounds help to mask ringing in the ears and other annoying sounds.
Besides hearing aids, there are other devices that provide sound therapy as a form of tinnitus treatment. These devices, which include noise machines and notched-music devices, also have soothing sounds that can help to mask or distract from ringing in the ears.
Some people with tinnitus find relief by taking certain medications, such as antihistamines and anti-convulsants. When it comes to tinnitus treatment, these types of medications are used off-label, which means they aren't approved by the FDA for that specific use.