April 4, 2012

Tinnitus is a Symptom

Parker,-Molly-NEWBy Dr. Molly Parker
Parker Audiology, PC

Tinnitus (TIN-ni-tus) is a sound that a person hears inside their head that no one else hears. Tinnitus is a symptom that is often–but not always–associated with inner ear damage. It is often described as “locusts,” “ringing,” “rushing,” “pinging,” “humming,” or “swishing.” Tinnitus is often caused by sensorineural hearing loss (“nerve deafness”), noise exposure, medications, ear infections, wax build up, and some inner ear disorders such as Meniere’s Disease. Causes cannot always be determined, but it important to know when to be concerned about your tinnitus.

Tell your physician or audiologist if you experience:
• Sudden onset of tinnitus in one or both ears
• Loud tinnitus in one ear, especially if it has changed recently
• Pulsatile tinnitus, a sound that has a steady rhythm
• Tinnitus that is correlated with changes in hearing or balance (vertigo)
• Changes in medications that result in changes in tinnitus

If your tinnitus is bothersome, it can help to focus on other sounds. Contrary to recent commercials, there is usually nothing that will cure tinnitus. If hearing loss is present, tinnitus can be helped with amplification. Studies document that many people have experienced improvement from using amplification. Still, hearing instruments are not a cure for all tinnitus cases.

Tinnitus can be annoying, but for some it is especially bothersome. Tinnitus can affect sleep, concentration, increase anxiety and even hearing. For those who have severe tinnitus, it can be helpful to share experiences with others who have tinnitus. The American Tinnitus Association (www.ata.org) can be an invaluable resource for information and personal support. Donations are always welcome and are used to further tinnitus research.

See your audiologist and/or physician to determine if your tinnitus is concerning and/or treatable. For severe cases that are accompanied by severe sensitivity to loud sounds, it may also be beneficial to visit a more specialized center specifically suited for tinnitus.