What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is what is known as the ringing, clicking, hissing, or buzzing sound people may have in their ear sometimes. It can sound high pitched, low pitched, soft or loud. It may be heard more in one ear over the other. Close to 25 million Americans experience this per year.

What causes Tinnitus?

Having tinnitus is not the disease itself. It actually indicates that something else is wrong in the auditory system and is, therefore, just a symptom of another underlying issue. Tinnitus can be caused by simply just earwax, or something more serious like noise-induced hearing loss. People who work in noisy environments, such as construction workers or factory workers, can develop tinnitus over time as the tiny sensory hair cells in their inner ear get damaged from the loud noises. Ear and sinus infections can be a cause, as well. Meniere‚Äôs disease, which is a disorder that affects the inner ear, can cause vertigo, hearing problems, and the ringing sound in the ear. Hormonal changes in women, thyroid abnormalities, and even brain tumors may all cause tinnitus. 

What to do if you have Tinnitus?

If you hear ringing in your ears that was not there previously, you should call your primary care doctor for an appointment to be examined. Your doctor will check for things such as a build-up of ear wax that may be blocking the ear canal. They may also ask you about your current health, any medical conditions you may already have or medications that you are taking that may have a side effect of tinnitus. If your primary care doctor cannot figure out the cause of the tinnitus, they may refer you to an audiologist, or an ENT, which is an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor).

How to treat Tinnitus?

There is no cure for tinnitus yet, however, there are certain treatments that may help many people cope better with the symptoms. Hearing aids are helpful for those who have hearing loss along with tinnitus. Wearable sound generators, which are small electronic devices that fit in the ear and generate a soft, pleasant sound, may be used for masking the tinnitus and therefore make it more bearable throughout the day. 

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