What Are Researchers Doing To Better Understand Tinnitus
Along the path a hearing signal travels to get from the inner ear to the brain, there are many places where things can go wrong to cause tinnitus. If scientists can understand what goes on in the brain to start tinnitus and cause it to persist, they can look for those places in the system where a therapeutic intervention could stop tinnitus in its tracks.
In 2009, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders sponsored a workshop that brought together tinnitus researchers to talk about the condition and develop fresh ideas for potential cures. During the course of the workshop, participants discussed a number of promising research directions, including:
Treating Dysfunctions And Obstructions
According to the American Tinnitus Association, most cases of tinnitus are caused by hearing loss. Occasionally though, tinnitus is caused by an irritation to the auditory system. Tinnitus can sometimes be a symptom of a problem with the temporomandibular joint . If your tinnitus is caused by TMJ, then a dental procedure or realignment of your bite may alleviate the problem.
Tinnitus can also be a sign of excess earwax. Removal of an earwax blockage may be enough to make mild cases of tinnitus disappear. Foreign objects lodged against the eardrum can also cause tinnitus. An ear, nose, and throat specialist can perform an exam to check for obstructions in the ear canal.
Why Are My Ears Ringing
An ENT specialist shares 10 strategies for coping with tinnitus
Just as a ringing bell can sound a warning, ringing in your ears can be a signal to pay attention to your body.
Ringing in your ears, or tinnitus, starts in your inner ear. Most often, it is caused by damage to or the loss of sensory hair cells in the cochlea, or the inner ear.
Tinnitus can present in many different ways, including sounds related to the ocean, ringing, buzzing, clicking, hissing or whooshing. The sound can be in one or both ears, constant or occasional, loud or soft. Often, it is more noticeable at night when youâre not distracted by work or family. It is often associated with hearing loss.
And itâs more common than you might expect. Over the past year, about 10 percent of the U.S. adult population has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Hearing Disorders.
âItâs not life threatening, and it is more of a symptom of other problems rather than a disease itself, but it can be debilitating,â says otolaryngologist Ashok Jagasia, MD, PhD. âIn some people, the distracting sound can cause depression, anxiety and/or insomnia.â
How Common Is Tinnitus
Tinnitus is common and can occur at any age. Most people have an occasional episode of tinnitus after going to a loud concert or disco. For most people, this is temporary and soon goes. As many as 1 in 10 people have persistent tinnitus that is mild and not very troublesome. However, about 1 in 100 people have tinnitus which persists most of the time, and severely affects their quality of life.
Evaluate And Treat Underlying Problems
If you develop tinnitus, it’s important to see your clinician. She or he will take a medical history, give you a physical examination, and do a series of tests to try to find the source of the problem. She or he will also ask you to describe the noise you’re hearing and the times and places in which you hear it. Your clinician will review your medical history, your current and past exposure to noise, and any medications or supplements you’re taking. Tinnitus can be a side effect of many medications, especially when taken at higher doses .
Musculoskeletal factors jaw clenching, tooth grinding, prior injury, or muscle tension in the neck sometimes make tinnitus more noticeable, so your clinician may ask you to tighten muscles or move the jaw or neck in certain ways to see if the sound changes. If tight muscles are part of the problem, massage therapy may help relieve it.
Tinnitus that’s continuous, steady, and high-pitched generally indicates a problem in the auditory system and requires hearing tests conducted by an audiologist. Pulsatile tinnitus calls for a medical evaluation, especially if the noise is frequent or constant. MRI or CT imaging may be needed to check for a tumor or blood vessel abnormality.
If you’re often exposed to loud noises at work or at home, it’s important to reduce the risk of hearing loss by using protectors such as earplugs or earmuff-like or custom-fitted devices.
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How To Stop That Annoying Ringing In Your Ears
Whether or not you hear it sporadically or its with you all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus is annoying. Perhaps annoying isnt the right word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating and downright frustrating might be better. That sound that you cant get rid of is a problem no matter how you decide to describe it. What can you do, though? How can you prevent that ringing in your ears?
How Long Before Your Tinnitus Subsides
Your tinnitus, in the majority of circumstances, will subside by itself. Your hearing should return to normal within 16 to 48 hours. However, you will want to find a solution if your tinnitus lingers. The sooner you discover a treatment that works, the sooner you can get relief. If you think you have hearing loss you should have your hearing checked.
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Modified Or Customized Sound Machines
Standard masking devices help to mask the sound of tinnitus while you are using them, but they have no long-lasting effects. Modern medical-grade devices use customized sounds tailored specifically to your tinnitus. Unlike regular sound machines, these devices are only worn intermittently. You may experience benefits long after the device is turned off, and over time, you may experience long-term improvement in the perceived loudness of your tinnitus.
A 2017 study published in the , found that customized sound decreases the loudness of tinnitus and may be superior to broadband noise.
Volume Control Author Learns To Cope With Constant Ear
by David Owen, AARP, October 29, 2019
En espaÃ±ol | In the fall of 2006, I traveled to Beijing on a reporting assignment. The smog got so thick during the week of my visit that flights were delayed, sections of three expressways were closed, outdoor school activities were canceled, and buildings across the street from my hotel were visible only as silhouettes in a mustard-brown miasma. I caught a bad cold, which got worse on the long flight home, and then got much worse. I felt as though someone had poured concrete into my head and was now gradually tightening a belt around my temples. My sinuses didnât fully clear for a month. Eventually, I stopped coughing. And, when I did, I noticed a ringing in my ears.
At first, I assumed that the ringing would go away, as my cold had. But it didnât. After six months of fluctuating anxiety, I made an appointment with my doctor. Tinnitus, he said. Most of the 50 million or so Americans who have tinnitus also have at least some hearing loss, and both problems are most often caused by exposure to loud sounds. My internist tested my ears by holding up a vibrating tuning fork and asking me to tell him when I could no longer hear it. After a while, he leaned forward to make sure the tuning fork was still humming, since he himself could no longer hear it. Tinnitus is the leading cause of service-connected disability claims made by military veterans hearing loss is second.
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Hearing Aids Or Masking Devices
Dr. Gergits may prescribe a hearing aid especially if you have experienced hearing loss. You may also benefit from a masking device, which is similar to a hearing aid. Instead of assisting in hearing loss, masking devices deliver a soothing sound to drown out the unwanted sound of tinnitus.
Other treatments include therapies, like Tinnitus Retraining Therapy and cognitive therapy, dental treatment, cochlear implants, and natural/herbal remedies
You can also take steps to prevent tinnitus by avoiding loud noises and protect your hearing at all times.
If youre fed up with the noise in your ear and are desperate for relief, look no further than Dr. Gergits and the team at Sinus & Allergy Wellness. Their expertise and dedication to your care will bring you comfort, normalcy, and peace once again. or schedule an appointment online.
There Are Treatments That Can Help Get Rid Of Tinnitus Or Minimize It
Can tinnitus go away on its own? In some cases, yes it can. Although we dont understand why, Comer says. Since the condition is almost always subjective, its possible that some patients just learn to ignore it. Its also possible that their brains naturally readjust to hearing loss in ways that squelch the tinnitus, he says.
And for some people, treating the underlying condition thats causing the tinnitus can make the symptom go away. In cases when impacted earwax, a blood vessel condition, or a certain medication is causing tinnitus, fixing these treatable problems could make the tinnitus go away.
But for most people, tinnitus doesnt go away by itself. Fortunately these patients have several options when it comes to managing the condition.
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What Treatment Do Tinnitus Patients Want
One key question is whether patients with tinnitus would be willing to accept novel treatment modalities for their tinnitus, such as drug treatments or surgery. A study undertaken by Tyler investigated patient preferences and their willingness to accept and pay for various forms of treatment. The potential treatment modalities comprised external devices, a pill, a cochlear implant, devices surgically implanted onto the surface of the brain or devices surgically implanted into the substance of the brain. This study demonstrated that the most commonly desired treatment modality for tinnitus was an effective drug: 52% would be very likely to try medication if it offered tinnitus loudness and annoyance reduction of a half, rising to 62% if it offered the chance of complete elimination of the percept.
Why Do I Have It
There are a number of reasons for tinnitus. The most common situation is that it often comes as an unwanted ‘added extra’ when you develop age-related hearing loss. It may also occur as a consequence of exposure to loud noise, or from working in a noisy place for a long time. Sometimes it is a symptom of other medical conditions, such as Ménière’s disease, ear infections or inner ear conditions. Occasionally it’s caused by a build-up of wax in the ear . Sometimes there is no obvious reason.
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Treating Chronic Ringing In The Ears
How Doctors Diagnose Someones Tinnitus
After asking a patient what theyre hearing, Comer says the next step in making a diagnosis involves asking questions about the onset of tinnitus, such as: When did it start? How often is it noticeable? Your doctor will also try to measure severity of the tinnitus.
There are several types of tests a doctor or health professional who specializes in ear health can use to gauge the strength and tone of someones tinnitus, including a machine that helps produce a sound that aligns with what the patient is hearing. A doctor might also use a noise-producing machine to measure the patients minimum masking level, or the amount of sound needed to cover up her tinnitus.
Early on, tinnitus patients will also undergo a hearing exam. Most of the time, that test will show the classic pattern where youre missing some high-pitched hearing, Comer says. He says this pattern of hearing loss and the tinnitus that results is common among people who have been exposed to loud noises like firearms or live music concerts.
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In some cases especially if the hearing in one ear is much worse than in the other Comer says a patient will need an MRI or other form of imaging test. Were looking at specific structures near the ear, he says. A benign tumor including one type that grows on the nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain may turn up, as well as cancerous tumors. Though Comer adds that tinnitus-causing cancerous tumors are rare.
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Look For Obvious Causes: Medications Or Loud Noises
When someone goes to a doctor and says, I need to know how to get rid of my tinnitus, the first thing theyll look at is whats been happening in the patients life lately. Are there any new medications, whether prescription or otherwise? Has the patient been working or spending leisure time in a very loud environment?
The people who can say yes to these sorts of questions are actually the lucky ones. Both medications and loud noises are known to cause tinnitus. If theyre the source, then stopping the medication and either avoiding noise or using earplugs will generally clear up the problem.
For people who either say no to those questions, or who dont experience relief with those suggestions, its necessary to do more experimentation to look for something that will work.
Some Lifestyle And Behavioral Modifications Can Help With Tinnitus
Stress tends to make tinnitus worse, explains Michael Kilgard, PhD, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Texas at Dallas. Research has helped solidify this connection, and it also suggests that some hormones and neurotransmitters that peak when a person is tired or stressed may affect the brain in ways that heighten tinnitus symptoms, according to work published in July 2016 in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.
For all these reasons, getting a good night’s sleep and keeping stress in check both much easier said than done may help some people rein in the severity of their tinnitus. Theres some evidence linking mindfulness practices to lower stress and better sleep, and that suggests mindfulness may also help people with tinnitus, too. The same is true of relaxation techniques including exercise and yoga.
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The Cause Of Your Tinnitus Is Significant
It becomes a lot simpler to reduce the symptoms of tinnitus when you are able to establish the fundamental causes. If a bacterial ear infection is, for example, the reason for your tinnitus, you can regain a healthy ear and clear hearing by treating it with antibiotics.
Here are some likely causes of acute tinnitus:
- Damage to the eardrum
- Menieres disease
- Hearing loss
- Chronic ear infections
When To Seek Help For Tinnitus
“It helps us get a sense if there is nerve-related hearing loss associated with the tinnitus,” Jagasia says. “In patients over the age of 60, we usually find some hearing loss with the ringing.”
See a doctor right away if you are feeling dizzy, experience complete hearing loss in one ear or have symptoms of vertigo along with the ringing a combination of symptoms that could signal Meniere’s disease.
Another potentially serious red flag: if you hear your heartbeat whooshing, which is known as pulsatile tinnitus. This sensation can be caused by more serious problems, including a benign tumor, middle ear infections, high blood pressure, blocked arteries or stroke. If it happens to you, Jagasia recommends calling your doctor as soon as possible.
“As we get older, it’s common to start experiencing ringing in our ears at some point,” he says. “Most often, it’s not serious, but tinnitus can affect your day-to-day living. The good news is that we can teach our bodies to ignore it.”
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Try To Get A Good Exercise
Some might be wondering, Why should I stress myself, despite getting stressed already with tinnitus symptoms? Doing exercise will indeed make you tired and thats exactly the trick. Remember, when you are tired, you are likely to get a good sleep quickly. So, if you notice buzzing sounds in your ear at night, consider taking in some cardiovascular routines. Once you are moderately tired, move to your bed. It will not only lessen the tinnitus symptoms but also increase your chances of sleeping on time.