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What Are The Common Causes of Tinnitus in Adults?

Tinnitus is when you can hear persistent ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds in your ears. How does tinnitus affect health and emotional well-being? It can bring on symptoms of anxiety and restlessness, which will negatively impact your overall health if left untreated. Understanding the common causes of tinnitus allows you and your doctor to come up with effective treatment strategies. Continue reading if you are in need of a tinnitus treatment in Utah.

Understanding Tinnitus

Tinnitus can be categorized into subjective and objective forms. Subjective tinnitus, the most common type, is only perceivable by the person experiencing it while objective tinnitus can be heard by both the affected person and doctor. This form of tinnitus often stems from underlying vascular or muscular issues that generate audible sounds within the body. The most common causes of tinnitus include:

Age-Related Hearing Loss: The gradual deterioration of the auditory system can lead to age-related hearing loss, often including tinnitus as a symptom.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: Exposure to loud noises such as heavy machinery or live concerts, is the leading cause of tinnitus. 

Earwax Blockage: Excessive earwax can obstruct the ear canal, leading to tinnitus. 

Ototoxic Medications: Certain medications, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, and high doses of aspirin can damage the sensory cells in the inner ear and trigger tinnitus. 

Ear Infections: Ear infections, particularly middle ear infections (otitis media), involve inflammation and fluid buildup in the middle ear space, which can affect the structures of the ear. Please note that not all ear infections will lead to tinnitus. 

Medical Conditions: Underlying medical conditions such as Meniere's disease, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, and traumatic head or neck injuries can also contribute to tinnitus. 

Stress and Anxiety: High levels of stress, anxiety, and depression can exacerbate tinnitus symptoms or even trigger their onset for some people. 

What to Expect at a Tinnitus Screening

Your ENT specialist will begin a series of comprehensive evaluations to determine the presence, type, severity, and potential underlying causes of tinnitus. 

1. Medical History:

To help them understand potential factors contributing to your tinnitus, they will have a thorough discussion about your medical history, including any existing medical conditions, medications you are taking, exposure to loud noises, and any previous ear-related issues. 

2. Symptom Evaluation:

Next, you will be asked to describe your tinnitus symptoms in detail. Tell them about the quality of the sound (ringing, buzzing, hissing, etc.), the intensity and frequency of the noise, and whether it's present in one or both ears.

3. Physical Examination:

They will also do a comprehensive physical examination of your ears, nose, and throat. The examination may involve an otoscope so they can visually inspect the ear canal and eardrum for abnormalities or signs of infection.

4. Audiological Assessment:

You'll be asked to wear headphones and respond to various tones at different frequencies and volumes to identify any hearing loss, which is often associated with tinnitus.

5. Diagnostic Tests (if needed):

In some cases, they may recommend additional diagnostic tests such as tympanometry (tests the eardrum’s response to air pressure changes) or auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing (to check the auditory nerve's response to sounds).

6. Discuss the Results:

Based on your results, the ENT specialist will then discuss their findings and explain the type and potential causes of your tinnitus, the degree of any hearing loss, and whether any additional testing or treatment is recommended.

7. Follow-Up:

Depending on the severity of your tinnitus and the proposed treatment plan, you may need to schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your progress, make adjustments to your treatment, and address any concerns.

Tinnitus Treatment Tailored for You

There are several effective treatments for tinnitus, including:

Sound Therapy and Masking: It introduces external sounds to alleviate the perception of tinnitus by using devices like white noise machines, hearing aids with masking features, and smartphone apps to distract you from the persistent ringing or buzzing.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a widely recognized psychological approach to managing tinnitus-related distress. Through therapy, you can work to reframe any negative thought patterns associated with tinnitus, reducing your emotional impact on a day-to-day basis.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT): TRT combines sound therapy with professional counseling to help you habituate to the sounds of tinnitus. Expert practitioners can guide you through this process, leading to a reduction in the perceived loudness and significance of tinnitus.

Tinnitus, though often challenging and perplexing, is an auditory condition that can be effectively managed through a range of holistic treatments. As technology continues to evolve, there will be more breakthroughs and differing approaches that will alleviate tinnitus. By addressing the root causes of tinnitus and creating a custom treatment plan with the help of our team, you can regain control of your health. Call us today at 801-893-4905 to schedule your tinnitus screening.