and its Treatment
Many people experience an occasional ringing (or roaring, hissing, buzzing, or tinkling) in their ears. The sound usually lasts only a few minutes. If it becomes persistent, you may have tinnitus. Tinnitus is most common in people over age 40. It affects men more often than women.
There are two main types of tinnitus:
Tinnitus is usually caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise (acoustic trauma), which damages the nerves in the inner ear. However, tinnitus can occur with all types of hearing loss and may be a symptom of almost any ear disorder. Other possible causes of tinnitus include:
Most tinnitus that comes and goes (intermittent) does not require medical treatment. However, if tinnitus is accompanied by other symptoms, becomes persistent, or starts to localize to one ear, a visit to a health professional usually is needed. Often there is no cure for tinnitus, but your health professional can help you learn how to live with the problem.
As there are so many diverse causes for tinnitus, treatment must be aimed at the underlying health problem. Once a negative work-up is completed, strategies for comfort and relief become important to the patient's quality of life. Many of these treatment modalities are anecdotal and lack rigorous study but have been found to be beneficial.
Lifestyle changes may lessen the severity of tinnitus. All of the following modalities can easily be implemented in a primary care setting:
There are also various treatment protocols that may help to manage persistent tinnitus and should be started only after specialty evaluation.
A referral to an audiologist is helpful in choosing the following treatment modalities:
As most patients with subjective tinnitus will have a negative work-up, good advice for patients is to become educated about the symptom and current research surrounding various treatments. The American Tinnitus Association has taken a lead in providing educational materials for both patients and healthcare providers. There are also many support groups throughout the United States.
Many healthcare providers tend to dismiss patients with tinnitus after evaluation and diagnosis of idiopathic disease, often telling them that nothing more can be medically done. However, a focus on interdisciplinary care with a specialist, an audiologist, and complementary providers will result in a more informed primary care provider, as well as a patient whose needs are met and whose symptoms of unwanted noise are effectively reduced.
sources: WebMD and Medscape
David Britton specializes in treating tinnitus.