Do you ever hear sounds that are not really there? I don’t mean like footsteps in your upstairs hallway or someone saying your name in a crowded Thousand Oaks shop, more like a buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing or ringing in your ears. If so, you may be experiencing tinnitus.
Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a sound in your ear when no noise is actually present. Some hear these sounds constantly while others only experience it sporadically. The sound can be present in both ears or one ear and can vary in frequency and pitch. Since tinnitus is typically a symptom of an underlying condition or a side effect, it is quite common; almost 20 percent of the population reports some degree of tinnitus. In addition to hearing sounds, those with tinnitus often also experience fatigue, sleep problems, memory problems, depression and anxiety.
Now that we know what tinnitus is, why does it happen?
Why Does Ringing in Your Ears Happen?
There are two kinds of ringing in the ear: subjective and objective. The most common type is called subjective; it is a ringing only you can hear. The second, and much rarer type of tinnitus is called objective. This occurs when your doctor can actually hear the ringing during an examination.
The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the inner ear. The inner ear is lined with small hairs. Sound waves cause these hairs to move. The movement of the hairs causes an electrical signal to be sent through the auditory nerve to your brain where it is interpreted as sound. If these hairs become damaged they can begin to randomly send electrical impulses. These signals are interpreted by your brain as a ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking or hissing. Age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noise and earwax blockage are all common causes of inner ear damage.
Tinnitus and Ear Disorders
In addition to inner ear damage, tinnitus is also a common side effect of some disorders. Ménière’s disease is an inner ear disorder categorized by episodes of vertigo and tinnitus. Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ disorders) or a head or neck injury can cause tinnitus. Acoustic neuroma, a noncancerous tumor that develops on the nerve that runs from your brain to your inner ear, can also cause tinnitus, although usually only in one ear.
Blood vessel disorders have been known to cause tinnitus. Atherosclerosis is a condition that can cause the blood vessels near the ear to become rigid. This causes blood flow to be more forceful and as a result, you can actually hear it. High blood pressure, a head or neck tumor pressing on a blood vessel or irregular blood flow can cause tinnitus.
Tinnitus and Drugs
There are more than 200 drugs known to list tinnitus as a side effect. Fortunately, the symptoms will disappear when you stop using the drug. These drugs range from cancer medications to water pills, quinine medications, some antibiotics and certain antidepressants.
In order for your Thousand Oaks audiologist to develop a tinnitus management plan, they will need to figure out the cause. If you are ready to finally find relief, contact your Thousand Oaks audiologist.