Do you hear sounds similar to ringing, hissing or roaring in your ear even though it is not present in real? The sounds you hear might be because of tinnitus, which is a condition where the sufferer hears a persistent noise not contributed to external noises.  

What is tinnitus?  

Tinnitus is a condition in which you hear sounds when no external source of that sound is present. The sound may be soft, loud and high, or low pitched and can be heard in one or both the ears.   

However, tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease. The people who have tinnitus may have noise-induced hearing loss, ear infection, a disease of the heart or blood vessels, head injury, Meniere’s disease, brain tumors or even earwax buildup.   

Types of tinnitus   

  • Subjective tinnitus: Subjective tinnitus is the more common type of tinnitus. With subjective tinnitus, the sound can only be heard by the patient. It is due to problems in the outer, middle or inner ear. At times, subjective tinnitus may be induced by problems in the auditory nerves or the auditory pathway as well. 
  • Objective tinnitus:  Objective tinnitus is a more rare condition and can be heard by the doctor or audiologist during the examination. It is caused by muscle contractions, blood vessel problems or an inner ear bone condition.  

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

If you hear phantom sounds on a regular basis, you should refer to a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor or audiologist will examine your head, neck, and ears to look for the possible causes of tinnitus. The doctor might also conduct some tests which include:  

  • Hearing test: To conduct the hearing exam, you will be placed in a soundproof room and asked to wear an earphone. Sounds at varying frequencies and pitches will be played in both of the ears one at a time and you would have to indicate whenever you hear the sound.  
  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans are conducted in order to find out more information about the suspected causes of tinnitus  
  • Muscle movement: For the muscle movement test, you will be asked to move different parts of the body. The doctor may ask you to clench your jaws or move your neck, arms, and legs. This is done to find out if these muscle movements affect tinnitus. The test also helps in diagnosing the underlying causes of tinnitus.  

However, at times, the diagnosis does not help in determining the cause of tinnitus. In that case, the doctor might simply refer to a treatment which can reduce the effects of tinnitus.  

Treatment options for tinnitus

If the doctor is able to identify the underlying causes of tinnitus, he or she will recommend you undertake a treatment for the cause. Once that condition is treated, the symptoms of the dreadful condition are reduced or completely disappeared.   

In case the cause cannot be identified, the doctor recommends several different treatment options to help reduce the noise produced by tinnitus. The treatment options include:  

  • Hearing aids: tinnitus most commonly occurs with noise-induced hearing loss. To help patients hear better, they are advised to wear a hearing aid. Along with amplifying the sound for better hearing, the hearing aid is also used to cure tinnitus. In addition, there are several types of hearing aids that produce white noise to ensure you do not hear sounds produced by tinnitus. 
  • White noise machines: These devices produce sounds that are peaceful and hearing friendly such as the sound of the rain, sea waves, and the wind. Thus, they cancel out the sounds produced by tinnitus to help you sleep better.  

Tinnitus can be a debilitating condition if not diagnosed and treated. If you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from a ringing-in-the-ears sensation, schedule a visit with a hearing specialist in your area to take charge of your hearing health!