It sounds like a ringing, buzzing sound in your ears. Doctors call it tinnitus, and you call it annoying and disruptive. If the noise continues for more than a few months, you should pursue treatment options with your ENT doctor. While there’s no cure for tinnitus, you can manage it and get real relief by seeing an ENT.
What Does Tinnitus Sound Like?
Tinnitus can vary in quality, pitch and volume. In fact, tinnitus can be many things to many people.
However, for the almost 20 percent of American adults who struggle with this hearing issue, the subjective, internal noise is more than a bothersome nuisance. It can impact your mood, day to day functionality and sleep patterns.
Tinnitus is not limited to iconic ear ringing. While that does happen, tinnitus also can sound like:
- Radio static
These sounds may come and go, may be heard all the time or may combine in unique patterns. Pulsing sounds often are the perception of the body’s own cardiovascular function.
What Factors Can Cause Tinnitus?
Changes in the auditory pathway can trigger symptoms of tinnitus. Something as simple as earwax which blocks the ear canal can start it. More commonly, chronic exposure to loud noise from concerts or construction sites damages the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear. This damage blocks or changes the signals sent along the auditory nerve to the brain.
Additionally, problems with the jaw joint – temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ – are associated with tinnitus. Or, the eustachian tube which connects the throat and ear may be blocked, inflamed or damaged from repeated ear infections or other diseases. An autoimmune hearing and balance disorder called Meniere’s disease may feature different degrees of tinnitus.
Finally, some medications can trigger tinnitus, or if you already have it, these medications can worsen it. Some of these medications are fairly ordinary, like ibuprofen and aspirin. Others target specific disease processes, such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, cancer drugs, diuretics and others.
Do Real Treatment Options Exist?
Treatment options for tinnitus are highly individualized. To understand the underlying cause of your tinnitus, your healthcare provider will ask you to describe the noise, when it started and what may trigger it. Be as specific as you can be so your ENT can determine if your tinnitus is related to a physical defect, such as TMJ, or something else. Also, you may undergo a hearing evaluation with our audiologist and some balance and imaging tests.
Then, the doctor will suggest ways to mask or even lower the volume on your tinnitus. If you have a hearing loss, you may find that your prescribed hearing aid(s) help mask the sound.
Also, your ENT physician may recommend:
- White noise machines which help cancel the subjective noise you perceive
- Ear protection when operating your lawn mower or other loud machinery at home or at work
- Taking medications if you are clinically depressed or have an anxiety disorder
- Learning to reduce stress with relaxation techniques and cognitive behavior therapy
- Getting consistent quality sleep
See Your Otolaryngologist in Georgetown, TX
At Georgetown ENT, your premier ear, nose and throat specialist is Dr. Scott William Franklin. Along with our onsite audiologist, Abeda Mueed, Dr. Franklin helps many adult patients suppress the disturbing symptoms of tinnitus.