Tinnitus or “ringing” in the ears can be a complicated medical condition to treat given the numerous causes, types, and severity of tinnitus. Tinnitus may be very mild for one person and short-lived while tinnitus may be chronic and debilitating for another person. A variety of treatment options are used on a regular basis, including different variations of sound therapy.
The source and cause of tinnitus is not always limited to the ear itself. It makes logical sense to start with the ears, where a person experiences the ringing sensation. In many people, tinnitus is subjective in which a person can hear sounds or ringing that may pulse or be constant, but nobody else can hear the sounds. Some people experience objective tinnitus in which both the person and the physician can hear the sounds. Causes of tinnitus that do not come from the ear itself are sometimes not considered by physicians. Examinations which are limited to the ear itself may not be helpful in individuals whose tinnitus is caused by something else, such as a traumatic brain injury.
Finding the Cause of Non-Otological Tinnitus – Importance of the Examination
Post-traumatic tinnitus isn’t always easy to diagnose and treat. There are numerous causes of post-traumatic tinnitus, making it difficult to find an appropriate treatment method that will work for every patient suffering from the condition. This feeling of “ringing” in the ears is often experienced after a traumatic event that affects the brain and ears.
Common examples include post-traumatic tinnitus secondary to a traumatic brain injury (TBI) (following a motor vehicle accident for example), secondary to a loud explosion in the military setting, and secondary to rapid pressure change experienced while deep water diving or traveling by air, among others. Additionally, some tinnitus may be pulsatile in nature (i.e., there’s a rhythm to the sound), or it could be non-pulsatile, where there is just sound without any distinctive rhythm.
Medical experts and researchers continue their quest to find the best treatment methods possible for tinnitus, or “ringing” in the ears. There are numerous treatment methods available to patients suffering from varying types and severity of tinnitus. While some of these treatment methods are widely known, others are still in the experimental phase without significant scientific backing. In some cases, treatment methods have helped patients eliminate their tinnitus, while others have at least helped with some of the symptoms for a period of time.
Current Available Treatments for Tinnitus
There are many different types of tinnitus, or “ringing” in the ears. Some tinnitus is minor and disappears over time. Some tinnitus may be chronic and severe. Some tinnitus may be subjective, where the patient is the only one who can hear the inner sounds. Other types of tinnitus may be objective, where it is not only the patient who can hear the sound, but also the physician evaluating the patient. The possibilities of how and why tinnitus develops in some people seem to be endless, causing experts and researchers to dig deeper to determine the root cause of tinnitus and how best to treat tinnitus for each person suffering from the condition.
Post-traumatic tinnitus is one type of tinnitus that develops after some traumatic event that affects the ears. The trauma may be due to experiencing extremely loud sounds or noises, suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), or by traveling in an airplane or diving underwater with rapid pressure changes. Each of these general causes of post-traumatic tinnitus is further discussed below.
Many of us have experienced ringing or buzzing in the ears before, sometimes short-term and temporary, and sometimes permanent. This sensation is called “tinnitus” and is something that affects millions of people every day. Tinnitus tends to be mild in nature as the ringing or buzzing will ultimately go away. For example, if you attend a concert and are exposed to very loud music, you may have foggy ears or hear ringing or buzzing for a period following the concert.
However, there is a small percentage of individuals who suffer from tinnitus that is much more problematic. Disabling tinnitus can affect sleep patterns, cognition, mood and even an acquired brain injury (ABI). Tinnitus is very difficult to treat as it has numerous causes and many unanswered questions. Because tinnitus is an area of medicine that is still under heavy research, many medical professionals have proposed alternative treatment options to help patients suffering from debilitating tinnitus that are further discussed below.
Tinnitus — a chronic condition of ringing or other sounds in the ears, the symptoms of which can range from annoying to disabling — can arise from a variety of causes, including hearing loss from noise exposure, infections, reactions to drugs, and spontaneously from unknown causes. Once significant category is tinnitus from neck and head injuries.
A study of tinnitus sufferers pubished in 2003 found that more than 12% reported tinnitus from neck and head injuries, with a third of these patients reporting their symptoms arose after neck injuries (such as “whiplash” type hyperextension/hyperflexion injuries) alone. The remainder had experienced either head injuries or a combination of head and neck injuries. The study also found that tinnitus from neck and head injuries tends to be significantly more severe than tinnitus from other causes.
Recently a neighbor informed me that he was experiencing loss of hearing and tinnitus. Initially, I assumed this was age-related. He went on to explain however that this was a side effect of a medication he was recently prescribed.
Hearing loss due to medication use is medically described as ototoxicity. Medications that can cause hearing loss or tinnitus can include prescriptions such as antibiotics, chemotherapy treatments, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), diuretics, cardiac medications, and psychopharmacologic drugs (Xanax, Wellbutrin.) A complete list of such medications can be found here.
Tinnitus is the medical word to describe ringing or buzzing noises in the ear. Medically speaking tinnitus is a diagnosis but is not a disease. It is a condition that is associated with another injury, trauma or disorder. While tinnitus may feel like it just occurred out of the blue one day but it is a sign that something is wrong somewhere else. The initial event of causation may have been days or weeks earlier.