Do you hear a ringing, roaring, clicking, or hissing sound in your ears? Do you hear this sound often or all the time? Does the sound bother you a lot? If you answer yes to these questions, you may have tinnitus (tin-NY-tus).

Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears when no external sound is present. A common problem, tinnitus affects about 1 in 5 people. Tinnitus isn’t a condition itself — it’s a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder. Tinnitus symptoms include these types of phantom noises in your ears: Ringing, Buzzing, Roaring, Clicking, or Hissing.

The phantom noise may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and you may hear it in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it can interfere with your ability to concentrate or hear actual sound. Tinnitus may be present all the time, or it may come and go.

Tinnitus causes & risk factors

  • Hearing loss. Most people who have tinnitus also have some kind of hearing loss.
  • Loud noise. Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. Continued exposure can make the tinnitus and hearing loss get worse.
  • Medicine. More than 200 medicines, including aspirin, can cause tinnitus. If you have tinnitus and you take medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your medicine could be involved.
  • Gender. Men are more likely to experience tinnitus.
  • Smoking. Smokers have a higher risk of developing tinnitus.
  • Cardiovascular problems. Conditions that affect your blood flow, such as high blood pressure or narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis) can increase your risk of tinnitus.\

A number of medications may cause or worsen tinnitus. Generally, the higher the dose of these medications, the worse tinnitus becomes. Often the unwanted noise disappears when you stop using these drugs. Medications known to cause or worsen tinnitus include: some antibiotics and cancer medications, diuretics, certain antidepressants, or uncommonly high doses of aspirin

Some causes of tinnitus are less common, including: Meniere’s disease, TMJ disorders, head or neck injuries, or acoustic neuroma. In rare cases, tinnitus is caused by a blood vessel disorder. This type of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus. Causes include: Atherosclerosis, head and neck tumors, or high blood pressure.

What should I do if I have tinnitus?

The first step is to see an Audiologist for an evaluation. A careful history and audiometric testing will lead to the most likely causes and best treatment for your tinnitus. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat examination to complete the diagnosis.

How will hearing experts treat my tinnitus?

Although there is no cure for tinnitus, Audiologists, scientists and doctors have discovered several treatments that may give you some relief. Not every treatment works for everyone, so you may need to try several to find the ones that help.

Treatments can include:

Hearing aids. Most people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing aids create a dual benefit of enhancing hearing and masking or covering up the tinnitus. The majority of patients with tinnitus receive partial or complete relief from their tinnitus with the use of hearing aids.

Maskers. Tinnitus maskers are small electronic devices that look like hearing aids and are tuned to generate sound that masks or covers up the tinnitus. Like hearing aids, they may provide relief from the tinnitus, but will not enhance hearing and may interfere with understanding speech.

Many types of devices, such as fans, radios and sound generators can be used as tinnitus maskers to help tinnitus sufferers to fall sleep or get back to sleep.

Medicine or drug therapy. Some tinnitus sufferers develop anxiety and other strong emotional responses to their tinnitus. Certain medicines may provide relief from these emotional reactions and provide some relief from the tinnitus. Other medicines and nutritional supplements have provided relief in some patients.

Neuromonics Tinnitus Therapy. This treatment uses a combination of testing, counseling and specialized masking to help you to effectively manage and gradually reduce your response to the tinnitus. This treatment can take six months or more to complete but has the highest rate of success.

Counseling. People with tinnitus may experience anxiety, depression and other psychiatric problems. You may be referred to a psychiatrist our counselor as needed.

Relaxing. Learning how to relax is very helpful if the noise in your ears frustrates you. Stress makes tinnitus seem worse. By relaxing, you have a chance to rest and better deal with the sound.

What can I do to help myself?

Think about things that will help you cope. Many people find listening to music very helpful. Focusing on music might help you forget about your tinnitus for a while. It can also help to mask the sound. Other people like to listen to recorded nature sounds, like ocean waves, the wind, or even crickets.

Avoid anything that can make your tinnitus worse, such as smoking, alcohol and loud noise. If you are a construction worker, an airport worker, or a hunter, or if you are regularly exposed to loud noise at home or at work, wear ear plugs or special earmuffs to protect your hearing and keep your tinnitus from getting worse.

If it is hard for you to hear over your tinnitus, ask your friends and family to face you when they talk so you can see their faces. Seeing their expressions may help you understand them better. Ask people to speak louder, but not shout. Also, tell them they do not have to talk slowly, just more clearly.

What is the next step?

Schedule an appointment with an Audiologist to evaluate and discuss your Tinnitus.

When to see a doctor.

If you have tinnitus that bothers you, have tinnitus that occurs suddenly or without an apparent cause, have hearing loss or dizziness with the tinnitus, develop tinnitus after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, and your tinnitus doesn’t improve within a week.

Complications

Tinnitus can significantly affect quality of life. Although it affects people differently, if you have tinnitus, you also may experience: Fatigue, Stress, Sleep problems, Trouble concentrating, Memory problems, Depression, Anxiety and Irritability.

If you are looking for Tinnitus treatment in Sarasota or Venice, Florida, HearCare Audiology Center is here to help.