Sensory cells for hearing line the inner ear. Each cell is covered with microscopic hairs. When sound waves enter the ear, the force moves the microscopic hairs. The movement creates nerve messages that travel to the brain. The brain interprets the messages as sound.
Tinnitus is a common symptom of many ear problems, including ear wax buildup, trauma, ear infections, foreign objects in the ear, perforated eardrum, Meniere’s disease, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, and otosclerosis (hardening of the small bones in the ear). Tinnitus can be caused by nerve disorders, such as Bell’s Palsy, neurofibromatosis, brain tumors, acoustic neuroma, traumatic brain injury, and concussion. Changes in blood flow can cause tinnitus. High blood pressure, preeclampsia with pregnancy, arteriovascular malformation (AVM), and aneurysm can contribute to tinnitus. Alcohol, caffeine, cigarette smoking, aspirin, antibiotics, and other medications can cause tinnitus as well.
Your doctor will examine the inside of your ear with an otoscope, which is a lighted device with a magnifying glass. If pus is present, a sample may be tested to determine what type of infection it is. Your doctor may place a stethoscope to your ear to listen for noises caused by vascular disorders. Vascular tests or imaging scans are used to identify and confirm vascular conditions. You may receive a hearing test to measure your degree of hearing loss.
In some cases, treatment may not make tinnitus go away. Devices that are worn in the ear can help mask the abnormal noises. Hearing aids may increase the volume of environmental sounds to decrease the annoyance of tinnitus. A fan, white noise maker, or low-volume radio static can help mask tinnitus.
Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and cigarettes can help reduce tinnitus. Relaxation techniques, biofeedback, regular exercise, and counseling can help to reduce stress, which may increase tinnitus.
Am I at Risk
Risk factors for tinnitus:
_____ Injury from loud noises
_____ Age-related hearing loss
_____ Ear infection, earwax buildup, foreign objects in the ear
_____ Cancerous or noncancerous head and neck tumors
_____ Trauma to the ear, head, or brain
_____ Certain medical conditions including Meniere’s disease, TMJ disorder, AVM, aneurysm, anemia, allergies, otosclerosis, Bell’s Palsy, and neurofibromatosis.
_____ High blood pressure
_____ Alcohol, cigarette smoking, and caffeine
_____ Aspirin, antibiotics, and other medications
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.