Tinnitus – A review. A SYMPTOM

man with tinnitus


Have you ever had a buzzing or a ringing sound in your ears? It must be an irritating; it affects a majority of people who really can’t describe it.

Many scientists have come up with many descriptions to make it easier for those affected to understand it better. First, tinnitus come from a Latin word ‘tinnire’ which means to ring (“Action on Hearing Loss”, n.d.). Tinnitus has been described as a physical condition that causes ringing in the ears and other sounds such as buzzing, roaring, hissing, whistling, clicking or chirping.

Tinnitus is believed to be a symptom rather than a condition which occur as a result of ear injury, hearing loss due to old age or a disorder of the circulatory system (“Overview – Tinnitus – Mayo Clinic”, 2016). Mayo clinic claim that it is not a serious condition but can worsen as the victim grows older but if treated earlier it can reduce. Some programs, such as the Tinnitus Miracle, treat this.

tinnitus pain

The U.S. center of Disease Control has given an approximation of 15% of the 50 million Americans to be suffering from tinnitus (“Understanding the Facts | American Tinnitus Association”, 2015). The association further states that there are two types of tinnitus:

  1. Subjective tinnitus which is characterized by noises that is only noticeable by the affected victim. It is the common one. It could be as a result of a problem in the auditory nerve or pathways.
  2. Objective tinnitus which is characterized by noises that can be heard by the affected victim and other people around him. Mostly as a result of a problem in a blood vessel or muscle contractions.

Causes of Tinnitus

As said before, tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom a condition which could either is acute or chronic. There are a number of factors that can lead to development of tinnitus, they include:

  1. Earwax build-up-The earwax is meant to protect the ear canal by trapping dirt but when in excess it becomes hard to clean the ear leading to temporary hear loss which can cause tinnitus.
  2. Age-related ear loss– As people grows old, most of their organs start malfunctioning, the hearing organ being one of them. This condition is mostly referred as presbycusis. Aging causes damage to the cochlea (“The Basics of Tinnitus”, 2016).It mostly occurs at 60.The cochlea is the part of the inner ear that transforms the sounds into impulses for the brain to interpret the neural message.
  3. Exposures to sudden or frequent loud noises-Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) like ear muffs are very essential during work especially in industries. Exposure to such noise either for a long time or a onetime experience can lead to impairment of the auditory system and hence heating loss. Music players are also another major cause of tinnitus if used for a lengthy period.
  4. Head or brain injury-severe head injury can lead to damage of the auditory nerve or the muscles responsible for hearing causing tinnitus to either one ear or both.
  5. Meniere’s disease and otosclerosis-Meniere’s disease affects the inner part of the ear while otosclerosis is a hereditary condition which causes an abnormal growth of the bone in the middle ear and therefore hearing loss.
  6. Medications– Some of the medication are believed to be the cause of tinnitus or worsen an existing symptom. The named medications include: aspirin, some of the cancer medications and antibiotics, water pills, quinine and anti-depressants.
  7. Temporomandibular Joint (TMK) disorder-This is the joint in front of the ears where the lower jaw bone connects with the skull. Damage to any muscle or ligament found at that point leads to hearing loss.

Apart from the causes stated above there are some risk factors associated with tinnitus symptom:

  • Stress and fatigue
  • Smoking
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Anaemia
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Tumors especially in the brain

For many of the patients with tinnitus the symptom is more severe at night compared to during the day because of quiet surrounding. Sounds made during the day make it less detectable.

Diagnosis of Tinnitus

Before tinnitus is can be treated a diagnosis has to be done by an audiologist- ‘is a health-care professional specializing in identifying, diagnosing, treating and monitoring disorders of the auditory and vestibular system portions of the ear. Audiologists are trained to diagnose, manage and/or treat hearing, tinnitus, or balance problems’ (“Audiology”, n.d.).

This examination will assist in finding the cause of the tinnitus. The audiologist might decide first to ask questions touching on the ear affected, the nature of the sound, if the patient is on any medication or if the patient has had long exposure to loud noise. The tests then to be done include:

  1. Hearing examination- this is done on both ears to check if they are affected with hearing loss.
  2. Imaging examinations-Imaging tests include MRI and CT scan. Imaging tests can be done on the head depending on the cause of tinnitus.
  3. Physical examinations-Involves checking the inside and outside of the ear to detect any problem that could be causing hear loss.
  4. Medication-The patient may have to give an account of the drugs used during that period to determine if they could be the cause.
  5. Exposure to sounds-the patient may be exposed to different types of noise with different frequencies and monitored if the effect is continuous or comes and goes.

Treatment of Tinnitus

In many instances it might be easy to get the root cause of tinnitus so for some they may be given medication and others advised on what to avoid.

From the causes and risk factors there are some remedies the affected persons can put in place like

  • Using hearing aids
  • Earwax removal
  • Consult a physician on alternative medication
  • Sound therapies
  • Counseling patients with tinnitus on how learn to live with the condition
  • Cochlear implants that are used in sending signals stimulating the auditor nerve.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with anxiety and depression

Every person is therefore being encouraged to avoid the factors that could lead to tinnitus or making it to be worse.

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