“Hey Doc, what’s that ringing in my ears?”
This is a question we hear all the time. Ringing in the ears is called tinnitus (pronounced “tin-eye-tis” or “tin-it-tis”) and it is often a symptom of an underlying condition, such as hearing loss. It is a subjective internal sound that others around you cannot hear. Tinnitus varies quite a bit from person to person. It may come and go, or it may be constant. It can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal or whine, and may be present in one or both ears. Common descriptions of tinnitus include ringing, chirping, roaring, hissing, or swishing. We’ve even known some patients to experience it as a song or melody on repeat.
Damage to the auditory system is a well-known cause of tinnitus. In hearing loss, the damage typically occurs in microscopic nerve endings in the inner ear. Since the health of these nerve endings is important for acute hearing, damage to them brings on hearing loss and often tinnitus. While hearing loss is the most common condition associated with tinnitus, there are other factors that can lead to the problem as well. Many medications, such as aspirin, have a known side-effect of tinnitus. Allergies, high or low blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid problems, injury to the head or neck, cochlear disease, tumors of the hearing nerve, and even caffeine or alcohol are also known culprits.
In most cases, there is no specific treatment for tinnitus and we must learn to manage it. Hearing aids and retraining therapies have shown to be beneficial in patients whose tinnitus has become significantly bothersome. There is plenty to learn about the condition, and our Doctors of Audiology are happy to discuss this with you. If you’re interested in learning more about your tinnitus and tips on how to manage it, call 907-789-6780 to schedule an appointment with one of our audiologists!