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Tinnitus Treatment Options

Tinnitus (literally “ringing” in Latin) is characterized by ringing, buzzing, or noises that originate in the ear or the head, and can cause discomfort and stress.

Though this condition is usually not dangerous, it can be a symptom of another health problem or underlying condition. Tinnitus can cause so many stressful side effects, including fatigue, sleep problems, concentration difficulty, memory problems, depression, anxiety, and irritability. Though it's not necessarily serious, it can be quite debilitating.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus may have several underlying causes. Your doctor may begin investigating the condition by first finding out what kind of tinnitus you suffer from. There are two general types of tinnitus: subjective and objective tinnitus.

Subjective tinnitus means that only you can hear the noise or ringing in your ears. This type is most common. Objective tinnitus, which is uncommon, means that it may be possible for others to also hear the noise or ringing.

Tinnitus can be caused by a number of things from certain medications to a variety of health problems. Your physician will take a detailed history of your health and medications, perform a thorough examination, and order a hearing test or or conduct other tests of the auditory system.

Possible causes of tinnitus include but are not limited to:

  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Earwax buildup
  • Abnormal bone growth in the ear
  • Meniere's disease
  • Stress and depression
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Benign tumor of the cranial nerve
  • Long-term aspirin use

In some cases, the exact cause of the tinnitus may not be found but serious underlying conditions can be ruled out.

How is Tinnitus Treated?

Tinnitus sometimes resolves on its own by addressing the underlying condition. It is important to note that there is no "cure" for tinnitus, so there is no one treatment that will work for each individual.

When tinnitus accompanies hearing loss, many people find that hearing aids are very effective in "masking" the tinnitus. By bringing in more real sound, the wearer is much less aware of the tinnitus. If falling asleep at night is a problem, sound generating devices such as those used in baby nurseries are very effective in delivering soothing background sound in order to mask the tinnitus.

In general, tinnitus treatments may not make the tinnitus disappear completely, but but they may make it less noticeable and ease your stress and anxiety from it. Speak with your audiologist about the best tinnitus treatment option for you.