What’s That Ringing Sound?
It is estimated that over 50 million Americans have experienced the occasional buzzing, ringing, hissing or beating noise in their ears. Usually this is after the individual is exposed to loud or continuous noises such as a music concert, large crowd, or the use of headphones- which most of us have experienced in our teenage and college years! Typically these pestering sounds go away on their own, ranging from a couple hours to a couple days.
However, those who suffer ringing in the ears that has a lasting effect- weeks, months, or even years- may be experiencing persistent tinnitus. Tinnitus is the individual perception of sound without an external sound source existing. Most tinnitus patients are older, with the majority being over 40 years old. This is because the most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss that accompanies aging and long or multiple exposures to loud noises. A patient’s tinnitus may be primary or secondary. Primary tinnitus is associated with hearing loss while secondary may be caused by a specific underlying cause that may be treatable.
There are also two main classifications of tinnitus. The first classification is labeled as nonpulsatile tinnitus. This is usually caused by nerve issues in the anatomy of the ear. Some patients describe nonpulsatile tinnitus as a sound inside the head, but can also be heard as sounds from both ears, or just in one ear. The second classification would be the type of tinnitus that pulsates, similar to a heartbeat. This is called pulsatile tinnitus. Muscle movements, restricted or altered blood flow, or any inner ear changes are all possible causes that might generate buzzing or pulsating sounds.
Tinnitus may be significant enough to affect a patient’s day to day activities and overall quality of life. It is important to talk to your physician about any hearing issues, including tinnitus. Prior to any treatment, a patient will need a detailed examination and an evaluation by a local otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) and audiologist such as Dr. James Go in Melbourne, FL.
An essential part to treating tinnitus is understanding what is causing it. If the tinnitus is one-sided, associated with hearing loss, or persistent, a hearing test should be obtained. Your doctor will determine how bothersome your tinnitus is, by asking certain questions or having you complete a self-assessment form.
There are several options available that can help a patient with tinnitus. If you have experienced tinnitus for less than six months, it could be possible that your tinnitus may improve over time. If your otolaryngologist finds a specific cause for the tinnitus, your doctor may propose specific treatment options to eliminate the noise. These may include removal of ear wax or hair from the ear canal, treatment of fluid in the middle ear, etc.
It is also important to know that some patients may have a slight improvement in their tinnitus with the use of hearing aids. If you suspect you may be experiencing tinnitus or hearing loss, have questions about treatment options or any other non-emergency ear, nose, or throat concern, call Dr. James Go today.