Tinnitus: Types, Causes and Treatment Options

Tinnitus: Types, Causes and Treatment Options

Sometimes, you may experience a ringing or buzzing sound in your ear. This happens because of tinnitus, a common condition that is often temporary. But if it persists, it can impact hearing and concentration.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is more frequently known as ‘ringing in the ear’, but you may also experience buzzing, humming, hissing or other strange sounds in your ear, which are not actually being made around you. 

These sounds can be loud or soft and occur in one ear or both, sometimes giving the feeling that they come from inside your head. 

Tinnitus can be irritating as it comes and goes. Some people learn to live with it, but most find it disturbing and disrupting their lives.

Types of Tinnitus:

There are 4 different types of tinnitus:

1. Subjective Tinnitus

This is the type of tinnitus in which the sounds can only be heard by the individual who is experiencing it. This is the most frequent type of tinnitus, and it is typically induced by continuous exposure to loud noises.

This type of tinnitus can occur suddenly and without warning, but the good news is that it usually only lasts three months to a year, though in severe situations, it may be permanent.

2. Somatic Tinnitus:

This type of tinnitus is related to the sensory system. It indicates that certain actions or touches may trigger it, making treatment even more difficult.

3. Neurological Tinnitus:

Neurological tinnitus is the type of tinnitus that can often be instigated by another medical condition, such as Meniere’s disease, which impairs the auditory functioning within the brain, leading the patient to hear sounds that are not actually present.

4. Objective Tinnitus

This rare type of tinnitus can be induced by involuntary muscle spasms or certain vascular abnormalities. As a result, if the underlying cause of the tinnitus is adequately treated, you can mainly cure it. 

Unlike typical cases of tinnitus, where only the affected person hears the associated noises, in this particular condition, others around the patient can also hear the symptomatic sounds.

Causes Of Tinnitus

Tinnitus can occur suddenly or develop over time, and it mainly occurs with some kind of hearing loss.

Some frequent causes of tinnitus are:

  • Hearing loss
  • Ear wax build-up
  • Ear infections
  • Head Injuries
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Tumours
  • Ménière’s disease – a condition that causes vertigo and hearing loss
  • Ostoclerosis – an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear causing hearing loss

Sometimes, however, the reasons for its development are unclear.

Treatment

Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom of other problems. It cannot be cured but can be managed by diagnosing and treating the underlying cause. Your doctor may take the following steps to determine the cause of your tinnitus.

  • Physical examination of your ear
  • Ask your medical history
  • Hearing tests
  • Tympanometry – checking eardrum
  • MRI

If your doctor finds no underlying causes for your condition, he may recommend other ways of controlling it. For example:

Hearing Aids: 

Hearing devices amplify the sounds around you, making you hear the sounds you wouldn’t hear otherwise. This can help dissolve the sounds of your tinnitus.

Sound Therapy:

Tinnitus is often more detectable in quiet places. The goal of sound therapy is to divert you from the sound of tinnitus by filling any silence with a neutral sound. This may involve opening windows to let in sounds from outside or listening to music on headphones.

Counselling:

Tinnitus counselling is a therapy that helps you understand your triggers better and learn to manage them. It may include CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or TRT (Tinnitus Retraining Therapy).

Self-Help:

The following self-help techniques have proven beneficial for people in managing their tinnitus:

  • Relaxation or Yoga
  • Listening to music or other sounds, such as rain or waves
  • Sleep hygiene, like regulated sleep patterns and avoiding alcohol or caffeine before going to bed
  • Hobbies and activities that keep you invested enough to defocus from your tinnitus
  • Support groups – sharing your struggles with people who relate can help you cope better

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