In this article, we discuss what causes tinnitus in the ear let us first understand what tinnitus may affect both adults and kids.
What Causes Tinnitus TOC
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the medical term given to any noise in the ears for which no external source exists.it can be soft or loud, throbbing or continuous. Most commonly it presents as a ringing sensation, however, there are other types of sounds associated as well like –
Ringing in the ears(tinnitus) affects approx 15 % of people. tinnitus is not a disease itself, it’s just a symptom indicating underlying middle or inner ear disorder. tinnitus is a Latin word meaning “ringing like a bell”.
Our ears have an organized system for transmission of sound from the ear pinna to the brain which includes the pinna, ear canal, eardrum, tiny middle ear bones, cochlea (where transmission to electric impulse happens), and finally the auditory nerve and brain. Damage anywhere from the ear canal to the auditory nerve can lead to tinnitus. Let’s understand what causes tinnitus in adults and children-
What Causes Tinnitus?
One of the most common causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud sound (causing damage to inner ear hair cells) which can cause a temporary or permanent shift in hearing threshold and other causes are –
- Age-related sensorineural hearing loss
- Tympanic membrane damage
- Ear bone discontinuity or damage
- Ear wax blocking the ear canal
- Meniere’s disease
- Eustachian tube disorders
- Av malformations or artery anomalies in the ear
- Tumors like acoustic neuromas
- Ototoxic medications (eg. aspirin and NSAIDs)
- TMJ disorder
- Hormonal imbalance
Also, a few conditions make people more prone to developing tinnitus eg. chronic smoking, cardiovascular problems, gender (males are more prone) chronic exposure to loud sounds.
How Can Tinnitus affect you?
People with tinnitus suffer in everyday life. it can sometimes be very irritating especially in quiet surroundings example at night, making it difficult for them to sleep. slowly they develop a fear of insomnia and it starts a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation, stress, fear, insomnia, and more stress, making it difficult day by day to live with tinnitus. it becomes important for them to learn to cope with tinnitus.
Many of the time it can be done just by improving lifestyle. very rarely, suicidal tendencies have also been noticed in people suffering from tinnitus. sometimes it gives rise to cancerphobia, people start thinking that they have a tumor/cancer somewhere in the brain while in reality, it can just be a very easily curable factor.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
There are broadly two types of tinnitus –
- Subjective- when only you can hear the noise, this type is more common.
- Objective- when the other person near you can also hear it. also called pulsatile tinnitus.
your doctor with run some tests like a tuning fork test or computerized hearing test to see any associated hearing loss and its type. you can also be asked to undergo MRI or CT investigation. Other investigations can also be done to rule out underlying disorders.
How tinnitus is treated?
During the early stages of tinnitus, it is always better to accept that you have tinnitus, it helps in understanding that though it can be very stressful and depressing in the early stages with time and knowledge you will eventually learn to cope with it.
Adaptation is nothing but just learning how to avoid the negative effects of tinnitus, it can also be called habituation. tinnitus makes it difficult to concentrate or to hear, with time ignoring the sound can make it easier to live with it. educating yourself about the condition is all you need to minimize its impact, however, there are other ways too-
- Try to find out what makes tinnitus worse- it can be a particular food item like tea coffee chocolate, salt, etc. minimize their consumption.
- White noise- a mixture of sound waves over a wide frequency range. there are devices available that create sounds like running water, rainfall, birds chirping, or ocean waves, listening to them can soothe the mind and help in diverting focus from tinnitus.
- Relaxation/ meditation- as already explained stress is an important factor contributing to tinnitus, and can actually make symptoms worse. deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and tai-chi (a form of Chinese martial art). even during meditation, some background white noise can make it easy to concentrate.
- Sleep hygiene-there are a few good sleep habits that you can follow –
- Go to bed at the same time daily.
- Take an adequate amount of sleep at least 6-7 hrs per day.
- Use white noise while sleeping.
- Some routines like taking a warm water bath before sleep helps in relaxation and improve sleep quality.
- One should avoid vigorous exercise, heavy food, or alcohol at least 2 to 3 hours before sleep.
- Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable enough.
How tinnitus is treated when adaptation fails?
We all know that exercise is an excellent stress buster, it also helps fight depression. it is advisable to exercise at least 3-5 times per week.
2. Protect yourself from noise
As mentioned earlier loud noise causes damage to the ear, further exposure to loud sound when you already have tinnitus can make it worse. always listen to music at lower levels and for not more than 1-2 hrs. always carry earplugs or muffs, use them during loud sounds.
3. Make a group
Sharing with others who have the same problems can make you feel less alone.
4. Getting used to it
Always train your mind to ignore tinnitus rather than putting the focus on it. keep yourself busy with work or hobbies.
Few of the behavioral strategies can be effective with or without sound devices.
6. Cognitive-behavioral therapy
It includes flexing the way of thinking about and responding to tinnitus. it is a short-term therapy, which may not make the sound disappear but significantly makes it less troublesome by teaching some coping skills.
7. Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
It has two main components, counseling and sound therapy, its objective is to explain the physiology of how the auditory system works and to mask tinnitus. this may last for one or two years.
8. Quit smoking and alcohol
Smoking disturbs the blood flow to the inner ear and also acts as a stimulant either way can make the noise worse.
9. Pay attention to other underlying health problems
As discussed earlier tinnitus can be there due to other diseases like thyroid disorders, high blood pressure, t-m-j disorder, diabetes stroke, etc.
10. Stop ototoxic medications
Certain medications can cause or worsen tinnitus like aspirin or NSAIDs, gentamycin, antimalarials, loop diuretics like furosemide, and TCA (antidepressants) like amitriptyline.
11. Hearing aids
Those who have developed hearing loss can get benefit from hearing aids not only in improving hearing but also in minimizing tinnitus.
12. how tinnitus is treated surgically?
Few of the interventions like cochlear implantation, stereotactic radiosurgery (when the tumor is the cause of tinnitus), nerve ablation, vascular decompression, deep brain stimulation, etc depending on the underlying cause can be suggested to do by your ENT doctor.
We hope all this information might help you to cure or live with tinnitus.
The Bottom Line
Tinnitus is a presenting symptom and an indicator of any underlying medical health problem. Unlike other symptoms like pain, tinnitus is a very complex thing to live with. Medical professional finds it difficult to manage as it needs a team approach.
Tinnitus although experienced in the ears is not just an ear disorder alone. Having tinnitus can mean you may be having one or the other above-mentioned conditions. And that is why your ENT doctor might ask you to go through multiple investigations and tests. Fortunately, there are non-medicinal ways as well to make it easy to live with tinnitus. Don’t stress yourself much about thinking about the dangerous causes of tinnitus, as this may actually affect your eating and sleeping pattern more which again increases your tinnitus.
We hope all this information might help you to know more about how tinnitus is treated and how to live with tinnitus.