Baton Rouge Clinic Health Library
Ringing in the Ears
Published: 11, 1999
Ringing in the ears or tinnitus, (pronounced "tin-ih-tis or "ti-night-is"), is a common disorder affecting seventeen percent of the general population.
Tinnitus is the perception of noise in the absence of environmental sound and is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying, often treatable problem.Most people describe their tinnitus as being constant in nature. Ten percent of tinnitus sufferers experience a pulsatile tinnitus, which can be described as a pounding or throbbing. This type of tinnitus is typically caused by the pumping of blood through arteries and veins.
These sounds become audible as the result of constricted blood flow, high blood pressure, benign vascular tumors, or the thinning of bone over an artery or vein in the skull near the ear. The underlying cause of pulsatile tinnitus can often be determined and successfully treated.
Patients with tinnitus may also have dizziness, ear fullness or ear pain. Additionally, seventy-five percent of patients with tinnitus present with a hearing loss. The most common types of hearing loss found with tinnitus are due to "presbycusis" (the hearing loss associated with aging), excessive noise exposure, drugs and Meniere's disease, a condition in which patients frequently have a fluctuating low frequency hearing loss, dizziness and ear fullness associated with the tinnitus.
Drugs are responsible for tinnitus in ten percent of those suffering from this symptom. All classes of medications are considered possible to cause tinnitus but the main offenders are aspirin, non-sterodial anti-inflammatories, antidepressants and certain antibiotics.
Other less common causes of tinnitus are thyroid disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, head trauma, hormonal changes, lead exposure and multiple sclerosis.
A person with persistent tinnitus should undergo a complete medical evaluation by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician. A hearing evaluation will likely be performed by an Audiologist (a professional with a Master's degree who specializes in the study of hearing and in the assessment and the rehabilitation of hearing impaired individuals).
Those patients who exhibit a sensorineural hearing loss may be a candidate for a hearing aid. However, a hearing aid is not recommended as a primary treatment for the relief of tinnitus, but occasionally can curb the tinnitus. For patients who are not candidates for hearing aids, tinnitus maskers or tinnitus retraining instruments (TRI) may be an option.
TRI's are designed to be used in conjunction with a comprehensive therapeutic program known as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). Some medications have been shown to be helpful in curing tinnitus in a small number of patients. The classes of drugs that have been used for treating tinnitus include diuretics, sedatives, anticoagulants and vasodilators.
The following is a list of things a person can do to potentially lessen the severity of their tinnitus:
- Get blood pressure checked and controlled if elevated.
- Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola and tobacco (caffeine does not cause tinnitus but can exacerbate it). Fifty-four percent of patients with severe tinnitus consume excessive amounts of caffeinated beverages.
- Avoid exposure to loud noise.
- Avoid certain over the counter medications such as aspirin and anti-inflammatory medication.
- Stress management.
Virginia A. Bringaze, MD
Specializing in Otolaryngology (ENT)
[ View Author Bio ]
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