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Tinnitus is best described by “ringing in the ears” or as noise which is not being caused by an external stimulus. Common descriptions of the symptoms include hissing, clicking or whistling sounds when there is no obvious external source for these noises. It can occur in one or both ears and may be constant or intermittent. There are numerous causes for this phenomenon, but more commonly it is due to some acoustical trauma such as listening to music too loud, enduring an explosion in close proximity or direct trauma to the head or ears. Tinnitus can be annoying, distressing and irritating but is generally not life-threatening. The one exception to this rule is if the tinnitus is being caused by a tumor or vascular anomaly within the inner ear or in proximity to the ears within the skull.
While there is no direct link to hearing loss associated with tinnitus, quite often people who are suffering with this condition have an associated partial or near-complete hearing loss. Depending on the cause and specific type of tinnitus, there may be a cure. Unfortunately, many cases of tinnitus are indeed incurable and can often cycle between active and dormant phases without any apparent pattern or stimulus. If you or a loved one is suffering from this type of symptom, it’s best to get evaluated by a specialist such as an ENT surgeon or audiologist to pin down potential treatable causes.
Following an audiological assessment to determine treatable causes, there are a number of potential strategies to help diminish or alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus. An audiologist or ENT surgeon can help direct those steps. Sometimes, utilizing a hearing aid properly fitted and adjusted can actually help to reduce the symptoms associated with tinnitus. In addition, many people find that learning appropriate stress management techniques such as mindfulness-based stress reduction can significantly decrease the symptoms or make them more manageable so that they have less of an impact on day-to-day life. If you are having difficulty finding the correct specialist to assess tinnitus, your primary care physician or the physicians at Lakes Urgent Care can provide you with resources to be properly evaluated and potentially treated for this annoying problem.
Dr. Sanford Vieder, DO, FACEP, FACOEP, Medical Director at Lakes Urgent Care, West Bloomfield/Livonia.