The sensation of hearing chirping, buzzing, roaring, clicking, whistling, hissing, whooshing ringing, or other sounds in one or both ears (or in their head) are some the signs and symptoms of tinnitus. For many, this is an irritating condition that can vary in loudness, and can come and go, or happen continuously. Unfortunately, this condition is very common, as it affects nearly 50 million adults in the United States. The severity ranges from person to person; for some tinnitus is just an annoyance, but for others, it results in psychological distress and can affect the quality of a person’s life. Tinnitus can make many of its sufferers feel anxious, stressed and/or depressed, experience memory problems, affects their ability to sleep, as well as their ability to concentrate.
The exact mechanism that underlies this condition is currently unknown, but there are a number of cases that are linked to tinnitus. The variety of illnesses and conditions that are known to lead to tinnitus include:
1. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss – Up to 90% of tinnitus sufferers have some level of hearing loss. Being exposed to loud sounds for prolonged periods of time is the most common cause of tinnitus.
2. Blockage in the Ear – This can be from an ear infection, from a buildup of wax, or from a benign tumor.
3. Disorder of the Outer Ear – This could be from a foreign body located within the outer ear, or from a perforated eardrum.
4. Disorder of the Middle Ear – This could be from fluid buildup, infections, or from Eustachian tube dysfunction.
5. Disorder of the Inner Ear – This could be from sensorineural hearing loss.
6. Old Age – The natural aging process can cause deterioration of the cochlea and to other parts of the human ear.
7. Prescription and Nonprescription Drugs – Tinnitus is often cited as being a potential side effect of many drugs. This includes antibiotics, diuretics, antidepressants, aspirin, anti-inflammatories, quinine medications, chemotherapeutic agents, as well as sedatives.
8. Medical Conditions/Diseases – High or low blood pressure, Meniere’s disease, anemia, glucose metabolism abnormalities, Otosclerosis, circulatory problems, allergies, diabetes, vascular disorders, cardiovascular disease, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and an underactive thyroid gland.
9. Injuries – In particular, a traumatic injury that occurred to the head and neck.
In some people with tinnitus, cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, and even certain foods can make the condition worse. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor to make an appointment:
• If the noise is accompanied by dizziness and/or hearing loss.
• Tinnitus that has developed after a respiratory infection and has not improved within a week.
• Tinnitus appears suddenly and/or without an apparent cause. The symptoms of tinnitus could be the underlying symptoms of other health problems.
• If the noise is accompanied by drainage or pain in the ear, as this can be a sign of an ear infection.
If you suffer from tinnitus and would like to determine if there is an underlying medical disorder that may be causing this condition, make an appointment with your doctor at your earliest convenience.