Tinnitus manifests as a noise or ringing in the ears, and is said to affect 1 in 5 people. Tinnitus is not a disorder in itself, but is a side effect of another underlying condition, such as hearing loss, ear injury, or circulatory system disorder. The sound is described as a ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, or hissing noise, and can be heard in one or both ears. There are two kinds of tinnitus:
- Subjective tinnitus, the most common type, which can only be heard by the patient. Usually, this is caused by problems in the outer, middle, or inner ear, with the auditory nerves, or with the auditory pathways in the brain.
- Objective tinnitus, which can be heard by your physician during their examination. This might be caused by a blood vessel problem, inner ear bone condition or muscle contraction.
There is no one cure for tinnitus — there are several treatment options available that can help patients with this condition. In the “new onset” period of tinnitus (ie. less than 6 months), for many, the tinnitus will tend to improve over time and will not be a persistent or permanent problem. If the doctor finds a specific cause for your tinnitus, he may be able to offer specific treatment such as removal of wax or hair from the ear canal, treatment of middle ear fluid, treatment of arthritis in the jaw joint, etc.
Some patients with hearing loss and tinnitus have a modest improvement in coping with the tinnitus using hearing aids. Sound therapies that involve simple things like background music, other noises, or specialized ear level maskers can be an effective treatment option. The effects of tinnitus on your quality of life may be improved by a course of counseling with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), usually involving weekly sessions conducted by a trained professional.