What is tinnitus? What does it sound like? What causes tinnitus?
- Allergic Reactions - Diseases - Growths/Tumors - Health Care - Injuries and Medical Treatments - Medication - Noise Exposure - Syndromes
Discovering and Understanding tinnitus - What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be described as “ringing” ears and other head noises that are perceived in the absence of any external noise source. It is estimated that 1 out of every 5 people experience some degree of tinnitus. Tinnitus is classified into two forms: objective and subjective.
The more rarer form of tinnitus involves the patients hearing head noises which are audible to other people like Doctors as well as to the patient. These kind of noises are created by vascular anomalies in the ear as well as muscle contractions and sometimes by structural defects in the inner ear. These kinds of noises are usually heard by the patient and are usually external to the overall auditory system of the person.
With this form of tinnitus someone who is examining the patient can actually hear the sound that is heard by the sufferer via the use of a stethoscope. These noises can be caused by TMJ, openings of the eustachian tubes, muscle contractions, the pulsatile flow of the carotid artery or even the flow of the jugular vein.
This more prevalent form of tinnitus can occur almost anywhere in the patient’s auditory system and Doctor know a lot less about it. The sounds of tinnitus can range from a metallic hissing, ringing in ears, buzzing, blowing, roaring through to popping, or non rhythmic pulsatile throbbing and can often be accompanied by a slight form of deafness, Menier’s syndrome, cochlear lesions, hearing loss, hyperacusis and balance problems.
What do we hear?
Tinnitus sufferers say that their tinnitus often sounds like the high pitched squeals which computer monitors or television sets sometimes make. Other Tinnitus sufferers say they hear noises such as rushing water, hissing steam, singing crickets, sounding bells, glass breaking and even car races and engines.
Objective tinnitus sufferers may hear a rhythmic rushing noise caused by their own pulse. This form is known as pulsatile tinnitus.
In a database of 1500 tinnitus patients over 78% of them said the sound was “tonal” with an average loudness of 7.5 out of 10 with the remaining 22% saying the sound was “noise” with an average loudness of 5.2. When tests compared these figures to an externally generated noise sound the average loudness was about 7.5dB above the threshold and over 65% of the sufferers were able to then go on to have their tinnitus masked by sounds
What causes tinnitus?
In a database of 1500 Tinnitus patients there was not a known cause however loud noise exposure was cited as the cause for over 25% of the patients.
Specific foods can cause cause tinnitus in various people and some of the problem foods include red wine, grain-based spirits, cheese, and chocolate, soy, MSG, ripe bananas, avocados, and citrus fruits.
Marijuana usage has been known to worsen tinnitus.
Growths/Tumors - Acoustic Neuromas:
Acoustic neuromas are small, slow growing benign tumors that press against or invade the auditory nerves.
These benign tumors of the glomus body can cause pulsatile tinnitus. They are confirmed with a CAT scan or other imaging, and may be surgically removable by a delicate procedure.
Otosclerosis is a bony growth around the footplate of the stapes. This forms the seal that separates the middle ear from the inner ear and when the footplate moves normally the sound vibrations are moved from the middle ear into the fluid of the inner ear. If the footplate is fixated the vibrations can’t pass into the inner ear and cause the resulting hearing loss.
Antedoctal Report Concerning Treatment by Surgery
When should surgery be performed if you have tinnitus? This really depends on the difficulty the patient is experiencing and whether or not surgery is even an option.
Wax/Dirt Build-up in the Ear Canal:
If you’re experiencing tinnitus, this is one of the first things you should check for. NEVER try digging or suctioning the ear canal yourself or allow a physician to do it as SERIOUS damage may result. Numerous over-the-counter chemical washes are available from your drugstore which will clean the ear canal in a safe and gentle manner.
Severe Ear Infections:
Many tinnitus cases onset after severe ear infections. But this may also be related to the overuse of ototoxic antibiotics.
High Blood Cholesterol:
High blood cholesterol clogs arteries that supply oxygen to the nerves of the inner ear. Reducing your cholesterol level can often reduce your tinnitus.
Arteries may press too closely against the inner ear machinery or nerves and this can sometimes be fixed by correctable surgery.
Stress is not a direct cause of tinnitus however it often makes the condition worsen.
Diet and Other Lifestyle Choices:
Like the stress related condition listed above if you have a bad diet it can worsen your case of tinnitus. It’s also known that alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, high fat meals can also make tinnitus worse in a number of cases.
Intracranial hypertension is known to cause pulsatile tinnitus. If you can stop your tinnitus by applying gentle pressure to your neck on your affected side, that is an indication.
Injuries and Medical Treatments
Traumatic Head Injuries:
Some automobile crash victims have said that they have a sudden onset of tinnitus.
Some dental surgery like hard to remove tooth extractions and ultrasonic cleaning are known to create hearing damage.
Cochlear Implant or Other Skull Surgeries:
Sometimes surgery inside the skull can accidentally damage your hearing system. Tinnitus can result from this and has also been known to cause deafness by bad inner ear infections.
Medication such as Ototoxic Drugs:
Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause tinnitus and hearing loss which can be permanent. In other cases it can disappear when the dosage is reduced. Before you start a treatment with a Doctor you should ask them about the potential ototoxic side effects.
Noise Exposure - Overexposure to Loud Noises:
Prolonged exposure to loud noises like guns (See Noise Trauma in the Military) , artillery, fireworks, aircraft, lawn mowers, big movie theaters, very loud music, heavy construction equipment and other noisy contraptions can be known to cause long term hearing damage.
MRI and Non-invasive Scanning Machines:
High-tech machines can take excellent images these days however they can be very loud and you should not undertake this kind of testing wthout wearing earplugs.
Syndromes - Temporo-Mandibular Joint Syndrome also known as TMJ:
This kind of aw disorder has been known to create tinnitus and has many symptoms such as headaches, migraines, earaches, jaw aches, facial pains, jaw sounds, lock jaw as well as pain while chewing food.