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Tinnitus or Ringing Ear Causes & Symptoms

What causes ringing ears or tinnitus?

Many people experience a “ringing in the ears” or other noises in the ears at some stage in their life. This condition is known as tinnitus and is characterized by an individual perceiving a sound that others usually around you do not hear. There are multiple types of tinnitus and perceptions of tinnitus, but the most common is a lingering ringing or buzzing tone in the ears. There are multiple reasons that someone can experience tinnitus, which varies depending on the type of tinnitus.

What are the types of tinnitus?

Tinnitus can occur in several different forms, depending on the cause. Subjective tinnitus – The majority of patients suffering from tinnitus have this form, which is caused by exposure to excessive noise and stress. Subjective tinnitus can be acute (less than 3 months) or chronic (over 3 months) and may be accompanied by hearing loss due to nerve damage in the ears.

Objective tinnitus – This form of tinnitus is very rare and is characterized by either involuntary contractions of middle ear muscles or by the blood stream of blood vessel close to the ear. Less than 0.1% of all tinnitus patients present objective tinnitus.

Neurological tinnitus – Tinnitus is sometimes caused by disorders of the inner ear or benign tumor, causing dizziness, vertigo, and balance problems. Acoustic neuroma and Meniere’s disease are usually a disorder that is related to this type of tinnitus.

Somatic tinnitus – Is a term used when the tinnitus is associated with head, neck, or dental injury-such as misalignment of the jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This occurs in the absence of hearing loss.

What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

Although the condition is often described as intermittent or continuous “ringing in the ears” it may also be perceived in other ways, including buzzing, roaring, whistling or whooshing in one or both ears.

There are also different ways to describe the way a noise is perceived by a patient who is suffering from one of the types of tinnitus:

Persisting tinnitus – Patient hears a constant or near-constant sound, sometimes overlapping with multiple noises. The volume may fluctuate. Pulsatile tinnitus – Patient perceives noise at a pulsing rhythm, often in sync with the patient’s heartbeat.

Musical tinnitus – Patient perceives singing or music, sometimes in a constant loop. This form of tinnitus is often called musical hallucination and is very rare.

What are the risk factors for tinnitus?

Some risk factors that may increase the risk of developing any form of tinnitus include: stress in private life or at work, excessive noise exposure (music concerts, headphone use), exposure to noise trauma (explosives) and hearing loss

How do ENT doctors diagnose tinnitus?

It can be helpful to consult with an expert at ENT in CaymanLtd. if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Our ENT specialists will consult patients, asking a range of questions about their condition. Questions might include:

  • How long have you experienced the noise?
  • Does the noise fade in and out or remain constant?
  • Have you had any exposure to loud noises or explosives?
  • Have you had a recent injury or illness?

Doctors will also conduct a thorough physical exam, including a microscopic exam of the ear and hearing testing. In some cases, laboratory tests or imaging studies (MRI) may be needed to rule out certain underlying causes.

If you are suffering from tinnitus, you may want to schedule an evaluation with an experienced ear, nose and throat doctor.

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