Doctor's Notes on Tinnitus
Tinnitus is an abnormal sensation in the ear that can be due to a number of different diseases and conditions. Tinnitus may be described as a:
- roaring, or
- pulsating noise.
It can occur in one or both ears and may be intermittent or constant. Tinnitus can arise from disturbances in any part of the ear. Some of the possible causes of tinnitus include muscle spasms, Meniere’s disease, problems with the temporomandibular (TMJ) joint, damage to the nerves of the ear, increases in blood flow, or trauma to the head or ear.
Symptoms and signs associated with tinnitus are variable and depend on the exact cause. Other symptoms can include:
- ear pain,
- problems with hearing,
- sleep disturbances,
- problems with balance,
- depression, and
- difficulty concentrating.
What Is the Treatment for Tinnitus?
Treatment for tinnitus depends on the underlying cause of the problem:
- Medications used to manage the symptoms or underlying conditions may include:
- Surgery is the recommended treatment for tumors or structural abnormalities that cause tinnitus.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy is a form of treatment that aims to retrain the nerve pathways associated with hearing, which may allow the brain to get used to the abnormal sounds of tinnitus.
Ear Infection : Test Your Medical IQ QuizQuestion
Ear infection or acute otitis media is an infection of the middle ear.See Answer
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Can Tinnitus Go Away on Its Own?Tinnitus is a perception of a noise that seems to originate in the ear or head in the absence of an external source. Tinnitus as a symptom of another condition may be temporary. About one-quarter of tinnitus sufferers report increased tinnitus severity over time, however. Chronic tinnitus usually does not go away completely.
Decompression SicknessBarotrauma and decompression sickness refers to medical problems that occur during diving. These problems include decompression illness (the bends), external ear squeeze, middle ear squeeze, inner ear barotrauma, sinus squeeze, face mask squeeze, suit squeeze, lung squeeze, tooth squeeze, and gastric squeeze (aerogastralgia). Treatment is determined by the type of injury or medical problem.
DizzinessDizziness may be a minor problem, or could be something life-threatening. Causes of dizziness include high blood pressure, low blood pressure, heart problems, conditions of the brain, medications, metabolic conditions, aging, other illnesses or conditions, or psychiatric conditions. Treatment depends upon the cause of the dizziness.
Ear SqueezeEar squeeze can affect a person while scuba diving. The adverse effects of pressure changes cause ear squeeze. Symptoms of ear squeeze include ear pain, fullness in the ear, tinnitus, hearing loss, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, and a discharge from the nose, mouth, or ear. Medical care should be sought if a person suffers from ear squeeze.
Earwax (Excess Buildup and Blockage)Earwax, or cerumen, is a substance produced by the glands in the outer ear. Earwax has a purpose, and that is to trap dust and other small particles and prevent them from potentially damaging the eardrum. Causes of earwax buildup, blockage, or impaction include using Q tips or other objects to remove earwax. Symptoms of earwax buildup or blockage include decreased hearing, a fullness or plugged feeling in the ear, ear pain, dizziness, or ringing in the ear. Home remedies, over-the-counter (OTC) medication (drops), and excess earwax buildup and blockage removal by your health care professional are treatments for earwax buildup.
Foreign Body (Object) in the EarGetting an object lodged in the ear is a common problem -- especially among toddlers. Pain or bleeding are the most common symptoms. Though a foreign body in the ear is seldom a serious condition, the object should be removed as soon as possible, preferably by a doctor.
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Meniere's DiseaseMeniere's disease is a syndrome in which you experience episodes of: spinning vertigo (sense of the room spinning), hearing loss, and tinnitus (ringing in the ear).
Middle Ear InfectionAn infection of the ear can be the ear canal (otitis externa), the eardrum, or the middle mear (otitis media). Symptoms and signs of an ear infection include ear pain, hearing loss, ringing in the ear, nausea, vertigo, vomiting, discharge from the ear, or common cold. Treatment for an ear infection includes over-the-counter pain relievers and at times antibiotics.
Sleeplessness and Circadian Rhythm DisorderA person's circadian rhythm is an internal biological clock that regulates a variety of biological processes according to an approximate 24-hour period. A disorder of the circadian rhythm may cause sleeplessness on at transient or chronic basis. The disorder can be caused by air travel across time zones, shift work, irregular sleep-wake cycle, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and advanced sleep-phase syndrome.
Swimmer's Ear (Otitis Externa)Swimmer's ear (also called otitis externa) is caused by a break in the skin lining the ear canal and outer ear, allowing bacteria or fungi to infect the ear. Excessive moisture in the ear, earplugs, headphones, hearing aids, and chemical hair dyes, bleaches, or shampoos may also cause swimmer's ear. The most common symptom of swimmer's ear is pain. Treatment depends on the extensiveness of the infection.
What Is the Most Effective Treatment for Tinnitus?Tinnitus is a condition that causes a person to hear a noise, usually a ringing, coming from inside their head or ear(s), which can occur in one or both ears. Treatment for tinnitus can include hearing aids, cochlear implants, surgery, behavioral therapies, masking devices, medication changes, and more.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.