Tinnitus is defined as internal sounds heard by a person, sometimes around the clock, that can significantly interfere with a person’s enjoyment of life. Sounds heard can be ringing or buzzing in the ears and they are normally shrill and difficult to ignore. The condition is often paired with some hearing loss, which can make tuning out these sounds challenging, since exterior noises may not be enough to distract from the ones you’re hearing inside your ear. There are numerous treatments for tinnitus, many with satisfactory results.
Diagnosis of tinnitus is essential in order to best address treatment. In some cases, it can be caused by transient conditions like ear infections, blockage in the ear canal or trauma. If the cause is something like an ear infection, normally clearing the ear infection will treat the condition. Tinnitus caused by traumatic injury to the ear should cease once the injury has healed.
People with anemia, thermandibular joint (TMJ) problems, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, or low levels of thyroid may also experience tinnitus. Again, these conditions, when controlled, may help control the sounds. In some cases, they completely reduce or eliminate the condition.
On rare occasions, tinnitus, especially when it can be heard by an examining physician (called objective tinnitus), can indicate a small tumor in the blood vessels or an aneurysm. Because there is a slight chance of having this condition, diagnosis should be made by an ear, nose, throat (otolaryngologist) specialist. These conditions can then be addressed.
Once diagnosis is made, and frequently there is no specific cause, treatment can begin. For those with hearing loss, using hearing aids can make all the difference in the world. Being able to tune out the inner sound and focus on exteriors helps some people significantly. Another common treatment for tinnitus is called masking.
Masking is a way of exposing the ears to other background or ambient sounds so that they can focus less on or tune out tinnitus sounds. Different noises may be used. Running water is a popular choice since many people report that the condition is better when they are showering. Masking can be done either by always playing background low-level sounds, or by using earphones. Some people listen to radio static at night with earphones, or merely keep their radio tuned to a static station to help block out the noise.
A few medications are available for tinnitus sufferers who are not helped by masking. The most efficacious of these appears to be Xanax®, a tranquilizer. The disadvantage of using this medication is that the body can quickly become addicted to it. Instead, some anti-seizure medications, which are also used for bipolar conditions, may reduce tinnitus or make it more tolerable. Antihistamines can sometimes be effective too.
There is one surgery for tinnitus, but it is usually considered a last resort, because it has only about a 50% success rate. In this surgery, the auditory nerve is split in two, which may diminish especially loud sounds. Usually, surgery is conducted when tinnitus results from actual damage to the ears.
People with tinnitus are advised to quit smoking, since this can increase the noise and make the condition worse. For many, aspirin should be strictly avoided since this can cause the condition. In fact, if you ever note your ears ringing after taking aspirin, you should not take it again until you’ve spoken to a doctor.
There are a number of support therapies for tinnitus that might provide relief. Learning relaxation and meditative techniques may certainly help, as can doing exercises like yoga or Tai Chi. Some people benefit from biofeedback or hypnosis. Others swear by acupuncture. If you’re suffering from this condition, ask a doctor’s advice about pursuing some of these alternative therapies in addition to traditional medical treatment.