- With tinnitus, you hear a noise that no one around you hears.
- This noise is usually a buzzing or ringing type sound, but it may be a clicking or rushing sound that goes along with your heartbeat.
- The sound is sometimes accompanied by hearing loss and dizziness in a syndrome known as Meniere's disease.
When to Seek Medical Care
Most newly noticed tinnitus should be evaluated by a physician. Because tinnitus is usually a symptom of something else, if it begins suddenly, see your doctor. This is particularly important if the tinnitus is only heard on one side.
Although the majority of cases of tinnitus are not caused by any acute problems, certain symptoms need to be evaluated to determine whether or not a more serious medical condition is causing the symptoms.
- Any time that tinnitus comes on suddenly, particularly in one ear or is associated with hearing loss, seek an immediate evaluation. Sudden hearing loss is often accompanied by tinnitus, and there are medications that may help to restore that hearing. Also certain types of tumors can cause sudden hearing loss and tinnitus that warrant an evaluation.
- Tinnitus that is pulsatile (in rhythm with your heartbeat) and comes on suddenly should also be checked relatively rapidly. In very rare instances, this sort of tinnitus can develop because of an aneurysm (a bulging of the wall of a blood vessel) near the ear or because of the sudden onset of very high blood pressure.
- Any time tinnitus is noticed in association with changes in personality, difficulty speaking or walking, or with any other movement problem, you should be evaluated for the possibility of a stroke.
- Initial evaluation will include a complete history and physical examination of the head and neck including the various nerves in the area.
- A complete hearing test (audiogram) will also be performed. Depending on the type of tinnitus, either a special audiogram known as an auditory brainstem response (ABR) or a brain scan such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be required.
- In some cases, your blood pressure and possibly some blood tests for hyperthyroidism may be taken. In very rare instances, a spinal tap may be performed to measure the fluid pressure in the skull and spinal cord.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/30/2015
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