What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a disease but a condition when a person start hearing some sound like ringing, roaring, clicking, hissing, locusts, beeping, or wooshing within the ear. This means, that the sound that the person hearing is not coming from any external source and the condition indicates the start of any hearing complication in the ear.
Generally, the people hear these sounds in night or at work. This can be very frustrating and might disturb the person while sleeping. The sound can be heard from one ear, both ears, or from head and can persist for long hours.
Research shows that the disease mainly affects people (around 12%) who are 65-75 years old. Data indicates that the disease has affected around 12 million Americans. This shows that the frequency of Tinnitus in white people is almost double than other community. Severity of the disease is also found very high in Americans (around 1 million). Some of the cases can be dangerously severe to the extent that they may require neurosurgery. The sound heard can be very mild or can be so loud, extending the limit of noise produced by some loud external object. Similar to the research results, it is found that in industrial countries people are facing problem of hearing loss because of the unnatural noise pollution.
Basic reasons behind the disease is ear infections, ear injury, wax or presence of any other foreign objects in the ear, cold, nose allergies inducing wax in the ear, and side-effects from some medicine like aspirin. The disease is considered as a subjective phenomenon as the sound heard by the person is not heard by some other person.
Symptoms of Tinnitus
Basically, Tinnitus in itself is a symptom of hearing complication such as hearing loss. One can himself detect that he is having Tinnitus when he start receiving these kinds of symptoms. Like:
1. Hearing of buzzing, roaring, or ringing sound in the ear
2. When the sound heard by the person is not heard by another person
3. Along with hearing problem, when a person start feeling dizziness. The given symptom can be also eloped with a disease name, Meniere.
Types of Tinnitus
The most common type of Tinnitus found in is of hearing sound like buzzing, ringing, hissing or roaring.
Sometimes sound heard by a person matches the frequency and sound of heartbeat and causes another type of Tinnitus, named pulsatile tinnitus.
Objective Tinnitus: This type of Tinnitus is not seen in many cases and the patient generally hears crackling sound produced by muscle spasms around the middle ear, although, the doctor investigating the case can also hear the sound produced inside the ear.
Objective tinnitus can be further classified as pulsatile tinnitus, where the sound heard is produced in an interval along with a pulse. It generally happens when some changes occur in the blood flowing near the ear. The Tinnitus might take the patient to a severe condition like carotid artery aneurysm.
Some approaches are given below, to measure the objective Tinnitus. Like
Quantitative Measurement: Brain, usually notes down the loudest noise heard by the patient. And, based on this criterion, doctors try to produce sample noise of less or equal amplitude to that loudest sound. After some sort of sampling, the sound that matches the amplitude of sound produced in the ear is distinguished. And, hence based on this doctor recommends certain treatment and precaution to the patient.
In case of pulsatile tinnitus, the sound produced is generally found to be caused by a pulsatile paraganglioma.
After doing the above quantitative measurement, the doctor can recommend removing the tumor from the ear.
Subjective Tinnitus: In this case the sound is only heard by the sufferer, not to others. Like in objective Tinnitus, some quantitative measures are taken in this Tinnitus also. Here, patient is tested on a sample noise of around 70 decibels. This level of noise is not assumed to be heard in natural circumstances. Hence, it shows that Tinnitus heard by the subject is basically the sound he is obsessed to. The causes behind the tinnitus not only include some common reasons given above, but some other also like memory problem, fatigue, poor health or anxiety.
Causes of Tinnitus
1. Mainly tinnitus occurs due to some hearing loss and some otologic problems. This happens because of some damage occurred in the main hearing part of the ear, named cochlea. The patient hear unusual sound like ringing and roaring when the cochlea sends abnormal sound to the brain and that sound are not completely interpreted by the brain. In this condition, brain some time does not react to these abnormal sounds, hence, it starts sending wrong sound to the ear or in severe case no sound.
2. Ear infection and ear wax is also one of the symptoms of Tinnitus. These complications can lead to difficulty in hearing or hearing loss.
3. Noise pollution including hearing of loud noise can also lead to Tinnitus. People who live in noisy area, where noise is heard every time are more prone to get effected by Tinnitus.
4. Other than ear problems, side-effects by some categories of drugs or medicines can also cause Tinnitus. Like analgesics including aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics including gentamicin, chloramphenicol, vancomycin or tetracyline, and antiviral drugs including vincristine or cisplatin.
5. Chemical compounds found in some drugs can also lead to this disease. Like chloroquine, quinine, harmaline, and 5-Methoxy-diisopropyltryptamine.
6. Neurological disorders like skull fracture or closed head injury caused due to some head disorders and multiple scelerosis are also considered under the symptoms of Tinnitus.
Diagnosis of Tinnitus
Quantitative tests explained above are useful in measuring objective Tinnitus.
Initially, the doctor asks about the medical history of the patient. After getting positive results or in case of some confusion, he takes some physical tests. In physical tests, screening is done to detect deficiencies in hearing power like hearing loss.
Still, if some confusion retains then the doctors can take you to some hearing tests like audiogram, auditory brainstem response (ABR), and brain scanning including CT and MRI. Patient who have problems like blood pressure need to go for some blood tests to detect hyperthyroidism, one of the very uncommon causes of Tinnitus.
Treatment of Tinnitus
Several treatments of tinnitus have been recognized, but, search for a treatment that can completely cure the disease is still on:
1. As it is known that the main reason of Tinnitus is hearing loss, hence use of hearing aids can help the patient to hear sound properly. There are several hearing equipments available including maskers-small device which help in reducing Tinnitus sound by the white noise.
2. Some antianxiety or antidepressant medication are available that can help in curing Tinnitus in a better manner.
3. To cure Objective Tinnitus, the doctor can recommend for Gamma knife radio surgery, Teflon implantation to cover cochlea, or cleaning ear wax from the ear.
4. Subjective Tinnitus can be cured by giving certain drugs and nutrients like Ginkgo Biloba, Lidocaine, Benzodiazepines, according to the medical condition of the patient.
5. People who have symptoms of this disease should try to avoid their caffeine and nicotine intake
6. Surgery to repair perilymph fistula should be done in needed cases.
7. The patient can take the help of otolaryngologists and audiologists to take retraining therapy to cure Tinnitus.
8. Sometimes Tinnitus can take a person to depression mode. Hence, it is recommended to take counselors help to regain faith in life.
9. One should aim for less stress, to ease out things. Because stress can make Tinnitus’ patient frustrated and can increase the problem. Hence, it is advised to take proper rest so that your body can respond better for external surroundings.
Prevention to Tinnitus
1. Prevent yourself from hearing sound as low as 70db. Professionals like DJ should wear ear plugs to prevent their ear getting damaged by the noise. Try to make sound low in volume by reducing noise from it.
2. Anytime, after attending rock concert or other shows where sound is created in very high volume, you face certain ringing sound in your ear contact your doctor immediately
3. In day to day routine, avoid sound of dryers and lawnmowers because this type of sound can take you to this disease slowly.
4. Before taking ototoxic medicines consult your doctor very well as the medicines have certain side-effects on the hearing power.
5. And, on personal level one can always maintain hygiene level in his body. Try to keep your ears clean so that no ear infection can harm you.