Q: I recently developed tinnitus. I woke up one morning to a bang in my house and tried to find the place. Worried, I went to wake my teenage son and was told he couldn’t hear anything. After testing my ears, my doctor says it’s tinnitus and basically I have to live with it. I find it hard to accept — I am a healthy 50 year old woman. Is there really nothing that can be done? why did this happen?
Dr. Grant replied: Simple things like earwax blockages, ear infections, and even viral labyrinthitis can cause temporary tinnitus, but tinnitus can take weeks or months to subside. Since we are testing , we can exclude these things.
Do you have hearing loss? This is an intolerance or physical/emotional discomfort to normal sounds in the environment that is considered tolerable or tolerated by most people with normal hearing. It may be present alone or in association with tinnitus.
Tinnitus is the perception of sounds independent of external sources. It is often described by victims as “constant ringing, buzzing, ticking, hissing, or humming” in one or both ears. Temporary tinnitus is quite normal after attending a loud concert or gig.
Tinnitus is a common complaint and an estimated 490,000 people in Ireland suffer from tinnitus severe enough to interfere with their daily lives. Tinnitus is more common in men than women, more common with age, and more likely to occur in smokers.
Tinnitus is not usually caused by a serious underlying medical condition, and many people learn adaptive behaviors or use white noise devices to minimize the effects of tinnitus.
One of the biggest risk factors for tinnitus is prolonged exposure to loud noise, such as working in nightclubs, working on industrial machinery, or military service before the introduction of mandatory protective hearing aids. Other risk factors include hearing loss (hearing is often normal even when tinnitus is present) and ear trauma.
Presbycusis – a term for age-related sensorineural hearing loss – is often accompanied by tinnitus. Hearing aids make external sounds clearer and louder, making tinnitus less noticeable.
In people who suffer from unilateral (one-sided) tinnitus, it may be due to a benign “acoustic neuroma” tumor behind the ear. Otosclerosis, a rare disease that affects the small bone in the middle of the ear, and rare brain tumors may also be considered. Drugs that can cause ototoxicity (damage to the ear) include chloroquine ( antimalarial drugs), aminoglycoside antibiotics, and some chemotherapeutic drugs, especially cisplatin.
In certain circumstances, it is worth consulting an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) physician, who will likely take a medical history, perform a clinical examination, and request further investigation, including imaging. The ENT may ask about risk factors, family history, whether the tinnitus is unilateral or bilateral, continuous or intermittent, and “pulsatile” (related to the heartbeat), which is It may indicate a possible vascular aneurysm.
Changes in tinnitus intensity or pitch associated with changes in head or body position (lying, sitting, or standing) are also highly suggestive of vascular tinnitus. Tinnitus can be assessed in terms of rhythmicity, pitch, sound quality, and potential aggravating or mitigating factors.
As a treatment for tinnitus, the medical device “Renire” may be judged to be suitable. It consists of a set of headphones, a small plastic intraoral device that sits on the tip of your tongue, and a small handheld controller. Ideally, 30-60 minutes a day, he uses for 6-12 weeks, or more if necessary. It sends light electrical pulses to the tongue combined with sound to promote long-term changes in the brain (neuroplasticity) to treat tinnitus.
Dr. Jennifer Grant is a GP at Beacon HealthCheck