Tinnitus is the hearing of sounds, either in one or in both ears, that are not occurring in the environment. It is often but not invariably associated with hearing loss. Each individual may describe the sounds that he or she hears differently. Bells, ringing, whistling, and hissing are common descriptions.
Tinnitus has many possible causes. Some are local and can be trivial and temporary, such as blockage of the ear canal with wax. Many causes involve other, serious diseases. Tinnitus may be a reaction to a drug. Aspirin use is probably the most common cause of tinnitus at all ages.
While tinnitus may occur at any age, elderly patients are particularly susceptible. Changes in the aging ear are sufficient to produce tinnitus in many people. Blood vessel changes that occur with aging may produce tinnitus. A blood vessel cause may be suspected if the sound is pulsating, and particularly if it is in time with the heartbeat.
Important Points in Treatment
The treatment choices depend on the cause of the tinnitus. Evaluation by your physician to determine the cause is important in the treatment of the tinnitus. When tinnitus is associated with hearing loss, the use of a hearing aid often helps suppress the tinnitus. Tinnitus may be worsened by stress or tension. If tinnitus is a particular problem for you at night and interferes with falling asleep, the addition of soft background music with a timed clock radio may help.
Notify Our Office If ...
- You experience ringing in the ears. Evaluation is important because of the common association of tinnitus with serious problems.