It’s there when you wake up in the morning, it’s with you all day, and it will be there when you go to bed. It could be a clicking sound, a low tone, a piercing whine, or a dull humming sound—but however it manifests itself, it stops you from concentrating during the day and makes it nearly impossible for you to sleep at night.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus, or head noise, is a condition that causes a patient to hear a noise that nobody else can hear. While it is usually described as a “ringing in the ears,” patients can hear clicking, buzzing, whooshing, or other persistent noises in one or both ears.
Is it Serious?
While mild or intermittent tinnitus can be annoying, chronic tinnitus can cause extreme frustration and distraction, significantly increasing a patient’s stress levels. Patients with severe tinnitus may experience insomnia or have trouble staying employed due to the impact head noise has on their work. Over time, untreated tinnitus can lead to social withdrawal and even early dementia.
In most cases, tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition such as:
- Hearing loss. Aging and inner ear degeneration are natural causes of both tinnitus and hearing loss. As people age, the cochlea can lose its ability to process sound, resulting in a low-level noise that is perceived by the brain but not actually heard by the ear. In essence, a tinnitus patient’s brain believes it is hearing a sound, but no sound is actually occurring.
- Blockages. Fluid buildup, excess earwax, or a tumor on the acoustic nerve (neuroma) can distort or muffle sounds and cause head noise. Swelling from an ear infection may cause a ringing in one or both ears, depending on a patient’s condition. In most cases, tinnitus that is caused by a blockage in the ear canal is only heard on one side of the head.
- Head injuries. Traumatic injuries to the head, brain, or ears can cause nerve damage that results in a temporary ringing in the ears. Patients who have dental problems or chronic temporomandibular joint (TMJ) misalignment could experience tinnitus due to spasms of the muscles in the ear and jaw.
- Medications. Some medications have been known to cause tinnitus, including aspirin, certain classes of antibiotics, and quinine.
- Noise exposure. Exposure to loud or repetitive noises is a very common cause of tinnitus and hearing damage. Loud music, sirens, gunfire, and other loud noises will often cause tinnitus due that is noticeable in both ears.
- Medical conditions. Patients who are experiencing pulsatile tinnitus are actually hearing the sounds of their own heartbeat as the blood vessels in their ears are constricted. High blood pressure, atherosclerosis, anemia, pregnancy, or thyroid problems can all cause pulsatile tinnitus, while conditions such as Ménière’s disease and otosclerosis may be the cause of tinnitus symptoms.
How Is Tinnitus Treated?
There are several hearing devices that can lessen a patient’s perception of tinnitus. Patients with hearing loss often report that their hearing aids greatly reduce their ability to hear head noise. For those who have trouble sleeping, devices called maskers can be used to emit low-level tones or pleasant noises helpful to allow the patient to get proper rest.
You don’t have to live with tinnitus another moment! At our San Francisco office, we can find a personalized solution that will allow you to live your life to the fullest. Call (877) 284-5133 to make an appointment today!