What is tinnitus?The most common causesDiagnosticsTreatment

What is tinnitus and why does it occur?

These are the sounds we hear in one ear, in both ears or in the head, and sometimes in the ears and in the head at the same time. People with tinnitus describe it in different ways: as squeaking, ringing, knocking, humming, rustling, whistling, hissing. Regardless of the nature and type of sounds, they are all called tinnitus.Nearly all of us experience occasional ringing in our ears. This phenomenon occurs especially often in silence. Sometimes we say that it is so quiet that it even rings in the ears. Such short-term, passing sounds should not cause concern and do not require medical advice. 

How does tinnitus occur?

Tinnitus is associated with abnormalities in the auditory analyzer and is the result of changes in activity in the fibers of the auditory nerve, most often as a result of changes in the inner ear. It is believed that in most cases, the source of tinnitus is irreversible damage to the outer hair cells of the cochlea. Simply put, the activity in the pathway of the auditory analyzer changes.

Why does tinnitus disturb us?

For some people, the appearance of extraneous sound in the ears, even the quietest, is a serious problem that interferes with a normal life, while for other people, tinnitus does not interfere at all. This indicates that the degree of irritation is determined not by the place of origin and characteristics of the noise, but by the consequences that the signal causes in the human nervous system.Most often, tinnitus is a subjective sensation of the patient. This means that no one around you can hear this sound. Hence there is the lack of understanding of the patient’s problem by others.

Is tinnitus a disease and is it a threat?

Tinnitus is not a disease, but only a symptom of various changes in the inner ear. To find out the cause of tinnitus, an audiological diagnostics should be carried out in order to exclude organic pathologies that require a doctor’s surgical intervention. In addition to the fact that tinnitus is not a disease, it often leads to nervous tension, anxiety, unexplained fears, discomfort, and often causes depression, that’s why tinnitus must be treated.

What are the most common causes of tinnitus and how to prevent them?

Possible causes of tinnitus:

  • impacted cerumen in the external ear canal
  • acute and chronic otitis media, upper respiratory tract infections
  • neck and head injuries
  • acoustic trauma
  • diseases of the cardiovascular system endocrine diseases
  • acute stress or chronic stressful situation changes in the cervical spine
  • temporomandibular joint dysfunction
  • oncological diseases
  • This list does not cover all possible causes of tinnitus.

There are many causes of tinnitus and it is extremely difficult to make a correct diagnosis. To identify the cause of the disease, you will need to undergo a thorough diagnostics. The doctor interviews the patient in detail and conducts an otorhinolaryngological examination. Important information is whether tinnitus occurs constantly or intermittently, whether it appeared suddenly, from one or both sides, what character, frequency and volume it has. The next step will be to conduct audiological examinations. Some patients with tinnitus may have hearing loss. In some cases, it will be necessary to carry out additional examinations to make a correct diagnosis, for example, angiography of the cerebral vessels, computed tomography of the brain, magnetic resonance imaging or ultrasound examination of the carotid and vertebral arteries to assess the presence and direction of flow within the vessels.

How to treat tinnitus? 

Today, there is no single treatment that is appropriate and effective for all types of tinnitus. How tinnitus is treated depends on the cause and location of the noise. Tinnitus can occur at any level of the auditory analyzer path, from the external auditory canal to the auditory cortex. Treatments for tinnitus depend on what caused the tinnitus, for example tinnitus caused by auditory tube dysfunction or otosclerosis, is treated differently than tinnitus caused by years of work in noisy environment. Tinnitus does not appear for no reason. Tinnitus is not a disease, but it can be a symptom of various pathological conditions. Tinnitus is always a signal that something is not functioning properly in the body.In the case when tinnitus becomes unbearable, leads to depression and an inexplicable feeling of fear, it is worth seeking help from a psychiatrist.

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