Inflammation: A New Culprit
Dr. Shaowen Bao, who is associate professor of physiology at Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon has recently released a study. Dr. Bao did experiments on mice who had tinnitus caused by noise-induced loss of hearing. And a new culprit for tinnitus was revealed by her and her team: inflammation.
According to the scans and tests carried out on these mice, inflammation was observed in the parts of the brain responsible for listening. As inflammation is the bodys reaction to damage, this finding does indicate that noise-induced loss of hearing could be creating some damage we dont fully understand yet.
But a new form of treatment is also opened up by these discoveries. Because dealing with inflammation is something we know how to do . When the mice were given medication that inhibited the detected inflammation response, the symptoms of tinnitus vanished. Or at the very least there were no longer observable symptoms of tinnitus.
So Is There A Pill For Tinnitus
One day there will most likely be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine thatinstead of investing in these various coping elements, you can just pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus at bay.
Thats definitely the objective, but there are different big obstacles in the way:
- To begin with, these experiments were conducted on mice. And theres a long way to go before this particular strategy is safe and approved for humans.
- Any new approach needs to be proven safe it could take a while to determine specific side effects, complications, or challenges related to these specific inflammation-blocking medications.
- There are many causes for tinnitus Whether any particular types of tinnitus are associated with inflammation is still not certain.
So it could be pretty far off before we get a pill to treat tinnitus. But at least now its feasible. If you suffer from tinnitus now, that signifies a tremendous increase in hope. And, clearly, this strategy in managing tinnitus is not the only one currently being researched. That cure gets closer and closer with every bit of practical knowledge and every new finding.
Work With Your Audiologist To Find Relief
Before you pursue any non-medical options for tinnitus management, you need to see a doctor to rule out any underlying problem requiring medical or surgical intervention, says Dr. Sandridge. The next step is to have a hearing test done by an audiologist to determine if hearing loss could be the cause as well as to determine if you can benefit from sound therapy.
Unfortunately, at this point, there is no FDA-approved medication to treat tinnitus. The majority of management options are non-medical and should be directed by your audiologist who may work with other specialty professionals such as a dentist, a physical therapist or a psychologist to find the best treatment option for you.
These may include different types of counseling such as cognitive behavioral therapy , mindfulness therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy or sound therapy such as fans, sounds apps on your smartphones, hearing aids or sound generators.
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Less Common Tinnitus Causes
The diseases and conditions listed here are either rare in themselves or less likely causes of tinnitus, but since most of them require medical attention in their own right, its worth considering them as possible causes of tinnitus as a symptom.
Acoustic neuroma. This rare benign tumor grows on one of the cranial nerves and can cause one-sided hearing loss and tinnitus.
Chronic diseases and conditions. Anemia, autoimmune diseases, hypertension, multiple sclerosis and thyroid problems are all associated with tinnitus.
Circulatory abnormalities. Known as objective tinnitus because it can be heard by an outside observer using a stethoscope, this form of tinnitus is very rare, accounting for fewer than 1% of cases. Its caused by hearing your own blood circulating, which is known as pulsatile tinnitus, or by other body sounds. When pulsatile tinnitus is one-sided, it warrants immediate medical attention.
Head and neck trauma. Severe injury to the headincluding traumatic brain injury or neck can cause changes in auditory processing, blood flow, muscles or nerves that can contribute to the perception of tinnitus.
Menieres disease. Tinnitus is just one symptom of this rare inner-ear disorder, which also brings on hearing loss and dizziness or vertigo, and oftentimes, a sensation of fullness in the ears.
Muscle spasms. Spasms in the muscles of the soft palate or middle ear can be responsible for tinnitus.
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:
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Could You Have Tinnitus
How do you know if you have it? Your doctor will make the final call, but you can ask yourself these questions.
Do you hear a noise that people around you don’t hear? When you have tinnitus, you’re the only one who notices the ringing, buzzing, or other noise. Other people don’t.
Do you take medication? More than 200 drugs can cause tinnitus, especially when you start or stop taking them. These include pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen, as well as certain antibiotics, diuretics, aspirin, and chemotherapy medicines.
The form that tinnitus takes can vary, depending on the drug and its dose. Don’t stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor first.
Are you around loud sounds? Lots of blaring noises where you live or work can cause hearing loss that triggers tinnitus. Those sounds could include roaring machines, lawn equipment, concerts, and sporting events.
Tinnitus can build up over the years or stem from a single loud event, like an engine backfire. Stay away from loud noises if you can. If you can’t, wear ear protection. And turn that music down.
Do you have a cold or ear infection? Congestion, along with ear and sinus infections, can cause pressure to build up in your inner ear. The same thing can happen if you have too much ear wax. That pressure can cause tinnitus.
Treating the cause should ease your symptoms. But long-term blockage sometimes leads to having the hearing condition permanently.
Lifestyle Changes And Tinnitus
Lifestyle changes that may help you manage tinnitus include:
- diet some foods or drinks may have a temporary effect on tinnitus, but it is okay to eat and drink whatever you like in moderation. You may find certain foods give your tinnitus a temporary increase, but the effect is only short term
- quitting smoking smoking narrows the blood vessels that supply vital oxygen to your ears and their sensory cells
- keeping physically and mentally active take up exercise , hobbies or interests. Even if your tinnitus prevents you from working, keep as physically and mentally active as possible. Do not withdraw from life
- finding the best ways to mask your tinnitus try surrounding yourself with pleasant noise, for example, playing the radio softly, or listening to relaxation music, rain falling on the roof or the ocean surf.
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Obstructions In The Middle Ear
Blockages in the ear canal can cause pressure to build up in the inner ear, affecting the operation of the ear drum. Moreover, objects directly touching the ear drum can irritate the organ and cause the perception of tinnitus symptoms. Common obstructions include:
- Excessive ear wax
- Loose hair from the ear canal
- Dirt or foreign objects
In many cases, the removal of the blockage will alleviate tinnitus symptoms. However, in some situations, the blockage may have caused permanent damage that leads to chronic tinnitus.
Can Tinnitus Be Fixed With Surgery
Although tinnitus is not a surgical disease for the most part, tinnitus due to a surgical lesion in the ear usually responds to treatment of that lesion. Typical lesions amenable to surgery include those caused by glomus tumors, sigmoid sinus diverticulum, arteriovenous malformation, and conductive hearing loss.
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Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a method of stimulating the brain through the intact scalp without causing pain at the surface. It is a minimally invasive method for depolarizing cortical neurons and is based on the principle of electromagnetic induction. The rhythmic application of a series of single stimuli is referred to as repetitive TMS , a method that has been demonstrated to induce long-term potentiation or long-term depression like changes of cortical excitability that outlast the stimulation period. rTMS has been investigated as a therapeutic tool for depression, schizophrenia, and stroke.
Tinnitus is considered by some to be a result of excitability of the cerebral cortex and, more specifically, the primary auditory cortex. rTMS has proven effective in the treatment of other disorders, such as auditory hallucinations, by modification of cerebral excitability.
Studies have indicated that the technique can alleviate tinnitus in the short-term by modulating the excitability of neurons in the auditory cortex, and a report stated that the use of rTMS with neuronavigation imaging resulted in a reduction in tinnitus severity after 6 months of follow-up compared with sham therapy. Further studies regarding the long-term clinical effectiveness of rTMS are required.
Hearing Loss & Noise Damage Are Big Factors
The exact cause is unknown, but most experts think nerve damage from noise exposure is the main reason. The current theory is that damage or dysfunction occurs along the nerve pathways that detect sound waves and deliver sound to your brain. This leads to disrupted hearing and sound processing, including tinnitus.
There are many different places in the inner ear and auditory nerve where such damage could occur, meaning tinnitus is likely not just one diseasewith one simple treatment. Also, a person often has multiple risk factors and medical conditions, making it hard to know if there’s a single culprit.
If you have a history of loud noise exposure, you are at high risk of tinnitus.
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Does Allergies Cause Ringing In The Ears
The inner ear is filled with fluid, and if this fluid becomes infected, you may suffer dizziness, ringing in the ear or loss of balance. Sometimes a stuffy nose and sinus pressure can radiate to the ears, causing pressure or earaches. Some people experience a short-term hearing loss due to an allergic reaction.
Auditory Pathways And Tinnitus
Sound waves travel through the ear canal to the middle and inner ear, where hair cells in part of the cochlea help transform sound waves into electrical signals that then travel to the brain’s auditory cortex via the auditory nerve. When hair cells are damaged by loud noise or ototoxic drugs, for example the circuits in the brain don’t receive the signals they’re expecting. This stimulates abnormal activity in the neurons, which results in the illusion of sound, or tinnitus.
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Teens Loud Music And Possible Future Hearing Problems
One study found that out of 170 teenagers, over half had experienced tinnitus in the previous year. Research has proposed that potentially risky leisure habits, such as listening to loud music on personal devices, could trigger tinnitus.
However, the investigators found that those who were prone to tinnitus tended to keep their music volume down, suggesting they may already have a hidden susceptibility to hearing loss in the future.
They propose monitoring for tinnitus and a low tolerance for loud noise from an early age, as these could be early signs of future hearing loss.
Tinnitus is a common problem in the general population, especially among those with certain risk factors.
New Investigations Into What Causes Tinnitus
When you have tinnitus, you learn to deal with it. You leave the television on to help you tune out the constant ringing. And loud music at bars is making your tinnitus worse so you avoid going dancing. Youre regularly trying new solutions and strategies with your hearing care expert. Eventually, your tinnitus just becomes something you fold into your everyday way of life.
Mostly, thats because theres no cure for tinnitus. But that could be changing. New research published in PLOS Biology shows that an reliable and permanent cure for tinnitus could be coming soon.
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How Is Tinnitus Treated
It depends on what’s to blame for the ringing.
If a medication is the trigger, your doctor might suggest that you stop taking it or change to a different drug. Never stop a medicine on your own without talking to your doctor.
If a health issue like high blood pressure is the cause, your doctor can work with you to treat it. Often, the ringing will improve when you get the condition under control.
If the problem is too much earwax, the doctor can remove the buildup gently. Don’t use cotton swabs to try to do it yourself.
Other treatment options may include:
Hearing aids. These devices can help with age-related hearing loss and tinnitus. They make the sounds you need to hear louder and make the ringing harder to notice.
Sound maskers. You wear them in or behind your ear to create constant, low-level white noise. This helps block the ringing. You might also try a white noise machine near your bed at night to help you sleep.
Retraining therapy. You get counseling and wear a gadget that masks the ringing with tonal music.
Relaxation techniques. Tinnitus can get worse when youÃ¢â¬â¢re stressed. You might find ways to ease your worries, like exercise, deep breathing, or biofeedback.
Medicines. There are several medications that show some promise in treating tinnitus, including certain hormones, topical anesthetics, and anti-anxiety medication. Ask your doctor if any of them may be right for you.
New Data Into What The Cause Of Tinnitus Is
When you have tinnitus, you learn to deal with it. To help tune it out you leave the television on. And loud music at bars is causing your hearing loss to get worse so you avoid going dancing. You consult with experts frequently to try out new therapies and new strategies. Eventually, your tinnitus simply becomes something you fold into your everyday life.
Tinnitus doesnt have a cure so you feel helpless. But that might be changing. New research published in PLOS Biology shows that an reliable and permanent cure for tinnitus may be on the horizon.
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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.
Medications That Cause Tinnitus
The most common drugs known to cause tinnitus are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , diuretics, certain antibiotics and cancer drugs, and the malaria drug quinine. But many others can cause tinnitus, too. If you experience tinnitus after starting any new medication, or changing a dosage, discuss it right away with your pharmacist or physician to determine if you should stop, reduce, or change the medications you are currently taking.
Did you know? One of the most common drugs known to cause tinnitus is aspirin, especially when taken in high doses.
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Common Causes Of Tinnitus
The reasons tinnitus develops are still poorly understood. There are several different mechanisms involved, but no one knows for sure what they are, says Richard S. Tyler, Ph.D., professor and director of audiology in the department of otolaryngology and department of communication sciences and disorders at the University of Iowa. It seems to be hyperactivity in the auditory nerves.
Research has found, though, that some possible causes of tinnitus may include:
Hearing loss. By far the most common condition connected to tinnitus is age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis. Presbycusis results from damage to the nerve cells in the inner ear over time and is a type of hearing loss known as sensorineural hearing loss, meaning that it involves the nerves in the inner ear and the brain.
Noise exposure. Loud noise, whether at work or for fun , can cause hearing loss and accompanying tinnitus. Its possible to experience tinnitus as the result of a single loud noise, such as a gunshot or explosion.
Ear injury, infection or blockage. Anything in the middle ear that prevents sound waves from reaching the inner earwhether thats ear wax blocking the eardrum, a ruptured eardrum or an infectioncan set off tinnitus.