All About Tinnitus

All About Tinnitus

In Tinnitus by Kim Greive

Kim Greive

Kim Greive and her husband Tom are the owners of Southeast Medical Hearing Center’s Bluffton and Savannah offices. They moved down to the low country in 2012 from Perrysburg, Ohio. Before they moved they owned several other service type businesses and then opened their hearing aid business in August of 2013. In 2014, their son, Tom Jr., became licensed and is currently a hearing specialist for the Hilton Head Office. He became board certified in 2016. Kim and Tom have truly enjoyed growing Southeast Medical Hearing Centers into a business that treats patients like family, while striving to always earn their trust.
Kim Greive

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The perception that there is ringing or noise in the ears is known as Tinnitus and up to 20% of people experience the frustration of suffering from it. It is not a condition but rather a symptom of a condition such as a disorder of the circulatory system, injury of the ear or hearing loss related to aging. It can be irritating but is not typically a sign of anything serious and can improve when it or the actual cause are treated.

Types of Tinnitus

Subjective: Only you can hear it, and typically caused by problems in the inner, middle or outer ear. Problems with auditory nerves or the section of the brain that interprets the signals to the nerves can also cause this type.

Objective: The doctor can hear this type during an exam. Causes include a bone condition of the middle ear or contractions of muscles and problems with blood vessels.

There is no external sound when the sensation of hearing it is present. Typical phantom noises include:

  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Hissing
  • Humming
  • Ringing
  • Roaring

The pitch of the noise will vary and can be present in one or both ears. The sound could be loud enough to interfere with communication and concentration. The sound can be intermediate or constant. You should see a physician if ringing in the ears develops after having a cold or other upper respiratory infection, there is no obvious cause, dizziness or difficulty hearing are present.

Causes of Phantom Noises:

There are several health conditions that can worsen or cause the presence of sound when there is none. The exact cause might never be found.

  • Hair cell damage. The hairs can be broken or bent causing them to “leak” electrical impulses at random.
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Condition or injury to the ear’s nerves or brain’s hearing center
  • Presbycusis
  • Exposure to loud noises either long term or short term.
  • Blockages from ear wax
  • Changes in ear bones such as stiffening or abnormal growth
  • Temporomandibular joint problems
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Injuries to the neck or head
  • Tumors in the neck or head
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Hypertension and factors that contribute to it.
  • Irregular blood flow
  • Capillary malformation

There are also some medications such as those for treating cancer, antibiotics, diuretics, antidepressants, aspirin in high doses and quinine medication can also lead to the condition. There are some factors that increase the risk, men are more prone to the disorder.

Diagnosis and Treatment

An examination of the neck and head will be used to diagnose tinnitus. The hearing test includes wearing earphones in a soundproof room and indicating every time you hear a sound. Moving your eyes, neck, limbs and clenching your jaw will be done to determine changes or worsening. There may also be MRI or CT scans done as a result of the suspected cause.

The treatment of phantom noises will depend on the underlying cause of the symptoms. Treating a health condition that is the cause can include:

  • The removal of ear wax that is impacted.
  • Medication, surgery or another treatment may be required for conditions of blood vessels.
  • Medication changes.
  • There could be the need to use white noise machines, air conditioners or fans to cover the noise at night.
  • The use of hearing aids can help when a hearing loss results from the condition.
  • Devices to mask the sound can be used in the ear to produce white noise and mask the sounds.
  • A device can be programmed to a musical tone to mask it and make you more accustom to the condition.

It is important to tell your physician all the symptoms that you are experiencing. Cover your complete medical history including clogged arteries, hearing difficulties and hypertension. Your doctor will ask about the length of symptoms, the sound of the noise and the duration. You will also be asked to tell the doctor what improves or worsens symptoms. Exposure to loud noises, head injury and disease of the ear will also be gone over. It is important that communication with the doctor be clear to get the best treatment.

Hearing aids can help if the tinnitus is the result of hearing loss. The relationship between being able to hear and difficulty with communication is direct and getting a hearing aid can solve both issues while reducing frustration.