What is tinnitus?
As many as fifty million Americans experience tinnitus. Yearly, 2-3 million people will visit their doctor for this problem. Classically described as a “ringing” in my ears, tinnitus is also described as a chirping or buzzing, whooshing or roaring sound. Its pitch can be a low roar to a high squeal or whine. It may be intermittent, or a continuous sound in one or both ears, and is frequently associated with hearing loss. Prior to any treatment, it is important to undergo a thorough examination, evaluation and hearing test at McCool and Bhuta Ear Nose and Throat Specialists.
What causes tinnitus?
The cochlea is the name of the actual hearing organ, located in the bone of the skull behind the eardrum. This amazing structure is a transducer, changing the mechanical vibrations of sound into an electrical signal that is then sent to the hearing centers in the brain. Most hearing loss is due to a decrease in the function of the hearing nerve, usually caused by the aging process or by excessively loud noise exposure which damages the hearing nerve. When this occurs, there is a decrease in the “signal” being sent to the brain. If the hearing centers in the brain are deprived of this signal, they paradoxically become excited. It is thought that this excited state is what produces the phantom sounds of tinnitus.
What can I do for tinnitus?
Since tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, it is important to visit Dr. McCool or Dr. Bhuta for a complete evaluation. If hearing loss is identified, you may be a candidate for a hearing aid, which can actually decrease your perception of tinnitus. Also, the advanced technology available in hearing aids allows them to be programmed to provide a tinnitus “masker.” We will also discuss environmental changes that can help mask the tinnitus, making your less aware of it. If the tinnitus is bothersome enough and is causing some anxiety or difficulty sleeping, some medications may be prescribed.