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Tinnitus Overview

Tinnitus (literally “ringing” in Latin) is characterized by ringing, buzzing, or noises that originate in the ear or the head, and can cause discomfort and stress.

Though this condition is usually not dangerous, it can be a symptom of other health problems or underlying conditions. Tinnitus can cause many stressful side effects, including fatigue, sleep problems, concentration difficulty, memory problems, depression, anxiety, and irritability. Though it's not necessarily serious, it can be quite debilitating.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus may have several underlying causes. Your doctor may begin investigating the condition by first finding out what kind of tinnitus you suffer from. There are two general types of tinnitus: subjective and objective tinnitus.

Subjective tinnitus means that only you can hear the noise or ringing in your ears. Objective tinnitus means that it may be possible for your physician to also hear the noise or ringing while performing an exam.

Tinnitus can be caused by a number of things from certain medications to a variety of health problems. Your physician will take a detailed history of your health and medications, perform a thorough examination, and possibly order a hearing test or conduct other tests of the auditory system.

Possible causes of tinnitus include:

  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Earwax buildup
  • Abnormal bone growth in the ear
  • Meniere's disease
  • Stress and depression
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Benign tumor of the cranial nerve
  • Long-term aspirin use

In some cases, the exact cause of the tinnitus may not be found but serious underlying conditions can be ruled out. 

How is Tinnitus Treated?

Tinnitus sometimes resolves on its own. In other cases, tinnitus may be treated by addressing the underlying condition.  Depending on the individual case, some tinnitus treatments may include:

  • Magnesium, zinc
  • Vitamin B supplementation
  • Homeopathic remedies
  • Acupuncture
  • Cranial-sacral therapy
  • Hyperbaric oxygen
  • Hypnosis

It is important to note that there isn’t one treatment that will work for everyone.

Sound therapy is another option that can help lessen the severity of tinnitus. Sound therapy involves the use of a sound-generating device as part of an overall program designed by an audiologist that includes informational counseling and other activities to help ease the stress of tinnitus. Sound therapy includes an individual regimen of listening to specific sounds such as soothing tones or customized music through headphones to help re-focus the auditory system.

In general, tinnitus treatments may not make the tinnitus disappear completely, but they may make it less noticeable and ease your stress and anxiety from it. Speak with your audiologist about the best tinnitus treatment option for you.

For more information on this topic, please refer to Tinnitus Treatment