Tinnitus is the medical term for the condition where you perceive sounds inside your head or ears that are not present in the environment. It is like hearing a ghost noise. While it is frequently referred to as “ringing” in the ears, it can also present itself as other sounds. People describe the sounds they hear with tinnitus as:

  • Whistling
  • Buzzing
  • Whirring
  • Chirping

Tinnitus can be anything from a temporary “ringing” in the ears that is an annoying problem to a long-term condition that causes serious distress.

Tinnitus is not a disease or condition. It is a symptom. Tinnitus can be caused by other conditions such as:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Ear infection
  • Head injury
  • Temporomandibular disorder
  • Other difficult to diagnose reasons

Tinnitus can occur at any age. It may appear gradually over time or appear suddenly.

Standard treatments for tinnitus

Remember tinnitus is a symptom and not a condition itself. Most tinnitus treatments are aimed at resolving the underlying medical condition.

Bite realignment or other dental treatment may be appropriate if the cause is temporomandibular disorder (TMJ).

Acoustic therapy utilizes “white noise” machines to mask the tinnitus and reduce its effect.

Tinnitus retraining therapy utilizes counseling to end negative reaction to tinnitus and as a result, it reduces its perception.

Some people come up with their own masking noises by using fans, radios and televisions to minimize tinnitus.

Hearing aids and tinnitus

The main cause of tinnitus is a type of hearing loss associated with damaged hair cells in the ear. This is known as sensorineural hearing loss. The very same hearing aids that amplify sound and stimulate areas of the ear and brain that don’t receive adequate stimulation also help with tinnitus. A recent study found that 60 percent of tinnitus patients experienced at some relief when wearing hearing aids and about 22 percent found significant relief from tinnitus symptoms. Since the hearing aids augment and clarify background noises, the tinnitus noise is masked and reduced.

In addition to standard hearing aids, there are also hearing aid style units that are worn at ear level to produce white noise. These units look like hearing aids because they are housed in hearing aid units. An audiologist can adjust and program these white noise generators much like a hearing aid is adjusted.

See the audiologist about tinnitus

If you have persistent tinnitus that impacts the quality of your life, make an appointment to see an audiologist today.

This medical professional can assess your hearing to determine if sensorineural hearing loss is present and treat your tinnitus.