Diagnosing and Treating Tinnitus

Illustration of ringing in the earsTinnitus, or ringing in the ears, affects as many as one in five people. Tinnitus is not a condition itself, but a symptom of another underlying problem. The doctors and audiologists at Chesapeake Ear, Nose & Throat frequently see patients who are suffering from tinnitus in the Baltimore, MD, area. A member of our team can identify the cause of your tinnitus and make a recommendation for the best course of treatment. Because stress can exacerbate tinnitus, appropriately diagnosing its root cause can lower your anxiety levels and begin to provide relief from the associated symptoms. If you are suffering from ringing, buzzing, hissing, or clicking in the ears and would like a qualified professional to perform a hearing evaluation to determine the cause, please contact our office to make an appointment with one of our doctors.

Symptoms of Tinnitus

The hallmark symptom of tinnitus involves hearing a ringing or buzzing when there is no external sound present. The noise may alternate in pitch from low to high and it can be present in one or both ears. These sensations can be persistent or intermittent, and can sometimes be so loud that they interfere with your ability to concentrate, sleep, or hear actual sound.

There are two types of tinnitus: objective and subjective. Objective tinnitus is very rare, and involves noise that can be heard by your doctor when they are performing an examination. This type of tinnitus can be caused by a problem with blood vessels, a condition associated with the inner ear bones, or contractions of the surrounding muscles. 

Subjective tinnitus is the most common type and can only be heard by the sufferer. Subjective tinnitus is typically caused by problems in the inner, outer, or middle ear, but can also be caused by conditions of the auditory nerves or the part of the brain that interprets sound. 

Common Causes

Tinnitus is commonly caused by exposure to loud noises. Many people experience temporary tinnitus after listening to loud noise at a concert or similar event. Persistent exposure can lead to permanent hearing loss, which can cause or exacerbate tinnitus. Age-related hearing loss can also cause tinnitus and is common in patients over 60. 

When earwax is allowed to accumulate to the point that it causes a blockage, it can irritate the eardrum, affect your hearing, and cause tinnitus. Changes to the bones within your ears can also cause tinnitus. This abnormal bone growth is thought to have a genetic link, so be sure to tell your doctor if anyone in your family has had this type of tinnitus. Patients who suffer from recurrent ear infections are also at a higher risk of developing tinnitus.

Less commonly, tinnitus can be caused by Meniere's disease, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, and injuries to the head and neck. Additionally, there are several blood vessel disorders and various medications that can cause tinnitus.

Treatment Options

After you receive a diagnosis, your doctor can determine an appropriate treatment option. Some treatments, such as irrigation to remove excessive earwax, are quite simple, while others, like surgical intervention for blood vessel disorders, can be more invasive or complex. Our doctors will commonly suggest noise suppression therapies or medications to help reduce the severity of your symptoms. Lifestyle changes, like limiting your exposure to loud noise, may also be recommended.

Make an Appointment

If you are concerned with unexplained ringing or other sounds in your ears, please contact our practice today to schedule a consultation.