Tinnitus

Tinnitus or "ringing in the ears" is considered a phantom auditory perception within the nervous system that occurs without the presence of an external sound.

When there is a lack of input from the absence of outer hair cells, the brain must find a way to compensate for this loss. In doing so, the auditory cortex can perceive spontaneous neural activity within the auditory pathways as "noise". This condition is known as tinnitus.

woman suffering from anxiety and depression from tinnitus

If tinnitus causes a negative response, it will become bothersome. This reaction will begin to involve other systems of the brain and you will become more aware of its presence.

Those who suffer from tinnitus most often complain of difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression, irritability, and will easily become withdrawn or distracted.

To reduce annoyance and thus the perception of tinnitus, it is possible to retrain the connection between the brain and the auditory system, by means of sound therapy and counseling, known as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy.

Causes of Tinnitus

Have you ever been to a concert and came out of the venue with your ears ringing? Noise exposure is considered one of the most common causes of tinnitus. However, it may also be associated with several other health conditions.

Such conditions include the following:

Excessive Ear Wax

When an individual has complaints of tinnitus, a physician will typically first exam the ear canal to rule out the possibility of ear wax. Wax often obstructs the ear canal, and prevents sound from the entering the ear. This can cause symptoms of hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

Hearing Loss

Due to the deterioration of cells in the inner ear over time, bilateral, age-related hearing loss and tinnitus are prevalent among the elderly.

Excessive exposure to loud noise can lead to trauma of the inner ear known as a noise induced hearing loss. Previously related to hazardous professions, the effects of permanent hearing loss and tinnitus in loud recreational activities has significantly increased in the last several years.

Otosclerosis

Most common in females, Otosclerosis is an abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear. Initial symptoms often follow hormonal changes after pregnancy and is present in both ears.

Meniere's Disease

Meniere's disease is caused by the presence of excessive fluid in the inner ear. Episodic in nature, symptoms of fluctuating hearing loss, tinnitus and vertigo are reported by most patients.

Sudden Hearing Loss

Often idiopathic, Sudden Hearing Loss may cause a significant decrease in hearing greater than 30 decibels. Tinnitus and vestibular symptoms are prevalent in approximately 40% of patients.

Acoustic Tumor

A benign tumor that affects either the auditory or vestibular portion of the 8th nerve originating from the inner ear to the brain.

Head & Neck Injuries

Injuries to the head or neck can cause complications with blood flow and surrounding muscles. The perception of tinnitus in individuals with these types of injuries occur only in one ear.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) affects the lower jaw causing facial pain and limited mobility. The same muscles and ligaments attached to the jaw are also located in front of the ear and adjacent to the auditory system. As a result, those who suffer from TMJ may have tinnitus as well.

Cardiovascular Problems

Affecting blood flow and circulation, cardiovascular problems are often associated with tinnitus.

Medications

  • High doses of Asprin
  • Certain antibiotics and cancer medications
  • Water pills and diuretics
  • Quinine medications
  • Some antidepressants could also exacerbate existing tinnitus

Other risk factors

  • Smoking, like many other symptoms, can also increase the risk of tinnitus.
  • Tinnitus affects more males than females.

Although these conditions listed above are common in individuals that suffer from tinnitus, there are many other causes as well. Tinnitus is a symptom and should be examined by a physician or hearing health care professional to properly diagnose the underlining condition.

Decreased Sound Tolerance

Sound sensitivity water

Decreased sound tolerance is a condition that is commonly associated with tinnitus and include forms of hyperacusis, misophonia and phonophobia.

Hyperacusis: an atypical discomfort to sound at either a moderate or soft level. In cases of hyperacusis, one may find water running and the door shutting painful.

Misophonia: a hatred to a specific sound or group sounds such as when chewing, yawning or the clicking of a keyboard. This type of decreased sound tolerance has also been known as select sound sensitivity syndrome.

Phonophobia: a subgroup of misophonia in which one would fear sound.

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