If you experience a pesky ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling, whooshing or roaring in the ears with no external sound source, you’re not alone. It is estimated that nearly 50 million Americans have been affected by tinnitus at some point in their lives. Below are some of the questions we’re commonly asked about tinnitus and information to help you understand the condition better.
What Is Tinnitus Like?
As stated above, there are many possible “sounds” you can hear if you have tinnitus. However, there are other ways it can vary as well. For instance, some people experience tinnitus constantly, while others experience it intermittently. Some find their symptoms to be a minor nuisance though others find it debilitating. There is truly no single answer to what tinnitus sounds like or how it can affect people.
What Causes Tinnitus?
It is important to note that tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease itself. As such, there can be many possible underlying causes. Common causes include:
- Hearing loss
- Noise exposure
- Ear and sinus infections
- Cardiovascular disease
- Meniere’s disease
- Brain tumors
- Hormonal changes
- Thyroid abnormalities
- Lifestyle habits
- Certain medications
Are There Different Types of Tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be either pulsatile or non-pulsatile. Pulsatile tinnitus is rare and sounds like rhythmic pulsing in the ear. Sometimes it can even be heard by a doctor using a stethoscope. This type is caused by problems with blood flow in the head or neck, or more rarely by brain tumors or other abnormalities. The vast majority of cases, however, are non-pulsatile.
Is There a Cure for Tinnitus?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus. However, there are many options for managing the condition. Some common treatment methods include:
- Hearing aids
- Sound generators/white noise machines
- Acoustic neural stimulation
- Cochlear implants
- Antidepressants/antianxiety medications
- Other medications
Can Tinnitus Be Prevented?
Some causes of tinnitus cannot be prevented. However, there are things you can do to reduce your risk. The best thing you can do is invest in hearing protection. Noise exposure is the easiest way to harm the delicate hair cells in your inner ear, but wearing custom hearing protection while attending concerts and sporting events, shooting firearms, operating power tools and participating in other noisy activities can significantly reduce your risk.
Some people find that changing their lifestyle habits helps prevent episodes of tinnitus. For example, quitting smoking and drinking and reducing caffeine and sodium intake have been helpful for many.
For more information about tinnitus or to schedule an appointment, call the experts at Arizona Desert ENT Specialists today.