I get asked this question on an almost daily basis. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control over 50 million Americans (15% of the general public) experience some form of ringing in the ears or “tinnitus”. Some people only notice the ringing after being exposed to loud noises (i.e. concerts or hunting), and some people live with it daily. The degree and severity of tinnitus can vary from person to person as can the cause. Some people describe tinnitus as ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking. It is usually perceived the loudest when a person is in complete quiet. According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) there are over 200 different medical disorders that may cause your ears to ring, not to mention the medications used to treat many illnesses that may also cause tinnitus. It is important to note that the presence of tinnitus does not necessarily indicate an underlying medical condition. Although tinnitus is commonly associated with sensorineural hearing loss (hearing loss on the auditory nerve), here is a list of a few of the other most common causes for tinnitus:
Problems with the middle ear: excessive ear wax, head congestion, foreign objects
Head or neck trauma
Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
Sinus pressure and barometric trauma (injuries from scuba diving, airplane pressure)
Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Ototoxic medications (drugs that can be harmful to your ears i.e. causing hearing loss, or tinnitus)
High blood pressure
Psychiatric disorders: stress, depression, anxiety
Metabolic disorders: hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, anemia
Vestibular disorders: Meniere’s disease, otosclerosis
Tumor- related disorders (very rare)
Only your doctor or audiologist can determine the most likely cause of your tinnitus. It is important to seek medical attention should you experience ringing in your ears. You may start with a visit to your physician who will most likely refer you to an audiologist for a hearing test and work-up of medical history and medication review. The physician and the audiologist then work together to determine what the cause of your tinnitus may be and the best course of action to manage your symptoms. Stay tuned for my next blog where we will cover some of the latest treatments for managing tinnitus. If you are looking for an audiologist in Texas, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.
Here is a questionnaire for you to fill out regarding your tinnitus. If you answer “sometimes” or “yes” to any of these questions, contact your audiologist!