Our team at Austin Ear Clinic knows that not every program works for everyone, which is why we offer an intricate and individualized tinnitus treatment program. We use a collaboration of multidisciplinary team members along with our allied health care partners and the best individuals qualified to help patients with their tinnitus. Using evidence based treatments, our team helps patients manage their tinnitus better. Our goal is to help you manage your tinnitus and improve your quality of life.
Tinnitus is the perception of sound within the ear. It is usually described as a ringing noise, but can also sound like hissing, roaring, whooshing, clicking, chirping, whistling or buzzing. It varies in pitch and volume, may occur in one or both ears and can be an occasional nuisance or a constant irritation. Tinnitus affects about one in five Americans.
Most cases of tinnitus are subjective in nature, meaning only you can hear the sounds. On rare occasions, a doctor may also hear them during an examination. This type is known as objective tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t a disease itself, but a symptom of another, possibly more serious, condition. There are many possible causes, including:
- Hearing loss
- Meniere’s disease
- TMJ disorder
- Head/neck trauma
- Ototoxic medications
- Benign tumors
- Excessive noise exposure
Tinnitus can strike people of all ages, but there are certain risk factors: tinnitus is most likely to affect older individuals, males, smokers and those with cardiovascular issues. In addition to ringing in the ears you might experience fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability and difficulties with memory and concentration.
Tinnitus is categorized as being either pulsatile or nonpulsatile. People who suffer from pulsatile tinnitus report hearing the sound of their own pulse or heartbeat. It is caused by abnormal blood flow within the arteries of the neck or inside the ear, and is fairly rare. Possible causes include fluid in the middle ear, ear infections, high blood pressure, head and neck tumors, or blocked arteries. These are symptoms of potentially dangerous conditions that can lead to strokes and bleeding in the brain. A patient experiencing pulsatile tinnitus should undergo a thorough medical evaluation, and may require consultations by a variety of specialists, depending on specific symptoms.
RED FLAG Symptoms:
- Pulsatile tinnitus
- Tinnitus in one ear only
- Ear pain or drainage
- Symptoms related to head or neck movement
- Vestibular symptoms
- Sudden or rapid reduction in hearing levels
- Sudden onset of tinnitus
Nonpulsatile tinnitus – ringing in the ears not accompanied by any type of rhythm – is considerably more common. It can be caused by a variety of conditions including presbycusis (age-related hearing loss), noise exposure, impacted earwax and otosclerosis (stiffening of the bones in the middle ear). Other causes that are less common include Meniere’s disease, TMJ disorders, ototoxic medications, thyroid conditions, head or neck trauma and acoustic neuromas.
There is no universal cure for tinnitus, but there are treatments that make it less of a distraction. Because tinnitus is a side effect of an underlying condition, identifying the problem may lead to a medical or surgical solution. The cure rates for pulsatile tinnitus are quite high once the problem area has been identified. Unfortunately, in many cases the exact cause of tinnitus can’t be identified, or treatment is not possible. However, symptoms can often be managed successfully through a number of different strategies.
- Acoustic therapy. Sounds are used to cover up, or mask, the tinnitus. This distracts your brain and helps you “tune out” the ringing in your ears. Electronic devices that produce white noise, air conditioners, fans, soft music, etc. can all be employed.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy. Similar in concept to acoustic therapy, tinnitus retraining therapy utilizes a portable sound generator that produces soft patterned tones to help desensitize the brain to the sounds of tinnitus.
- Steroid Injections. Meniere’s disease (also known as endolympatic hydrops) has a triad of symptoms (hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo) that fluctuate due to increased fluid pressures in the ear organs. Fluctuations of hearing and resulting tinnitus can be treated with a potent steroid with an 85 percent chance of improvement in tinnitus.
- Surgery. If you have an acoustic neuroma and have tinnitus, the tinnitus may be resolved through a surgical removal of the acoustic neuroma. In a 1981 research study of more than 400 patients, 45 percent improved their tinnitus with the surgical removal of the acoustic neuroma.
- Hearing aids.Hearing loss causes maladaptive neuroplastic changes in the brain. Hearing aids are used to stimulate the auditory pathways received by the brain. Background sounds can mask tinnitus. Hearing aids can also help the patient better distinguish one sound from another, improving communication and helping with focus and concentration difficulties. Many devices also come packaged with noise generators to replace ambient sounds if amplification alone does not reduce tinnitus.
- Counseling. Counseling, sleep, cognitive behavioral or relaxation methods can be practical in helping you manage your tinnitus symptoms by helping reduce the stress, anxiety and sleeplessness that are often associated with tinnitus. Austin Ear Clinic providers teach methods to help you manage your tinnitus symptoms.
Do you experience a ringing in your ears? If so, you are not alone. Tinnitus affects an estimated 50 million Americans—about 20 percent of the population. It can range from a mild annoyance to a full-fledged problem that severely impacts your quality of life.
Call Austin Ear Clinic at 512-434-0494 today to schedule an appointment for a Tinnitus Assessment.