Tinnitus is the perception of sound when there is no external sound present. Tinnitus can be referred to as “ringing in the ears,” although it may sound different to each person. It can present itself as buzzing, hissing, whistling, clicking, or even an ocean noise.
Millions of Americans can experience tinnitus to an excruciating degree, which makes tinnitus one of the most common health problems in the U.S. It’s estimated that roughly 15% of the general population, over 50 million Americans, face some form of tinnitus. “Why” tinnitus is occurring can be complex and difficult to diagnose. Some tinnitus can occur spontaneously, or can be an underlying symptom of a health issue.
It’s important for patients who suffer from tinnitus, to seek professional health care in order to fully diagnose and manage the symptoms. During your appointment, please mention if tinnitus is affecting your life or preventing you from sleep.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not considered an actual disease. Tinnitus is more commonly a symptom of a pre-existing condition. In some cases, tinnitus is a byproduct of damage to the brain or auditory system. Tinnitus is also frequently associated with hearing loss, but can also be symptomatic of nearly 200 different health disorders.
Some of these common disorders can include:
- Hearing loss
- Excessive ear wax
- Head congestion
- Head and neck trauma
- Dental Issues – TMJ
- Certain medical conditions
- And more.
The Affiliation of Tinnitus & Hearing Loss
Still under current research, the specifics of the association between hearing loss and tinnitus is unknown. Researchers hypothesize that the loss of particular sound frequencies to your hearing leads to changes in how the brain interprets sound. There are studies that suggest it is from affected afferent neural connections within the auditory system. In simplistic terms, the brain receives lower external stimuli regarding a certain frequency and begins to change. It is speculated that tinnitus is the brain’s way of filling in the missing pieces of sound frequencies since it does not receive it from the auditory system.
Though there is no cure for tinnitus, there are several treatment options that we refer to as management options, that are available that allow patients to successfully manage the condition. A healthcare provider will recommend techniques to alleviate the tinnitus and tailor it to your specific needs.
Management methods for patients with tinnitus can be seen as any of the following:
- Hearing aids for hearing loss and tinnitus
- Tinnitus masking devices
- Turning off the TV and other screens hours before bed
- Boxed fan or noise machine
- …and more. Please refer to your healthcare professional.
If you suspect that you have hearing loss or experiencing symptoms of tinnitus, schedule an appointment at Commonwealth ENT Associates (703) 878-0777 to see our healthcare professionals.