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Tinnitus is an abnormal perception of a sound, reported by patients as being a ringing, roaring, buzzing, or other type of sound in the ear. With tinnitus, the reported distress is difficult to record and appreciate by others. Tinnitus will not cause you to go deaf, and statistically, 50 percent of patients may express that their tinnitus decreases or is hardly perceptible as time passes.

Tinnitus is a very common disorder, and may be: Intermittent, constant, or fluctuating; mild or severe; varied in nature, from a low roaring sensation to a high-pitched type of sound; and often associated with a hearing loss

Types of Tinnitus

Tinnitus is also classified further into subjective or objective types:

Subjective tinnitus - This is a noise perceived by the patient alone and is quite common.

Objective tinnitus - This is a noise perceived by the patient as well as by another listener. This form of tinnitus is relatively uncommon, and the location of tinnitus may be in the ear(s) and/or in the head.

Tinnitus Causes

The cause of tinnitus may originate from various sites within the ear. The auditory system involves highly complicated inner ear structures, many nerve pathways, and a great amount of nuclei that form a complex neural network. Pinpointing the cause of tinnitus to a certain structure becomes questionable.

There are many other causes related to the ear which would result in tinnitus: abnormal activity in the auditory nerve fibers, chronic cochlear disorders of the hair cells, neurons and cochlear fluids, side effects of medications (such as aspirin or some prescription drugs), ear wax (cerumen), otosclerosis (fixation of the stapes bone in the middle ear), Meniere’s disease, sudden trauma or injury to the head, neck or ear, vascular abnormalities, lesions or tumors.

Diagnosing Tinnitus

If the tinnitus is severe and disabling, a complete cochleovestibular evaluation is necessary by a qualified specialist, specializing disabling forms of tinnitus.

Treatment of Tinnitus

Generally, most patients will not need any medical treatment for their tinnitus. For patients who are greatly bothered by tinnitus, they may use masking techniques and other treatments, such as: listening to a fan or radio (usually when attempting to go to sleep), a tinnitus masker (electronic instrument resembling a hearing aid), hearing aids (if hearing loss is present), biofeedback and relaxation training, and avoid triggers (i.e. anxiety, fatigue, caffeine, smoking). Prescription medications or homeopathic remedies may be recommended, with varying degrees of success.

Contact Dr. Coughlin at Hearing Care Professionals if you have questions about tinnitus.