Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ear)

Tinnitus is a ringing, roaring, swishing, hissing, buzzing or other type of noise originating in the ear or head. In many cases it is not a serious problem but rather a nuisance that eventually resolves. Tinnitus is not a single disease, but a symptom of an underlying condition. In almost all cases, only the patient can hear the noise. 

Tinnitus can arise in the outer, middle or inner ear or by abnormalities in the brain. Some tinnitus or head noise is normal. Anything, such as earwax or a foreign body in the external ear, can cause us to be more aware of our own head sounds. Fluid, infection or disease of the middle ear bones or eardrum (tympanic membrane) can also cause tinnitus. One of the most common causes of tinnitus is damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear. Advancing age is generally accompanied by a certain amount of hearing nerve impairment, consequently causing chronic tinnitus. 

Loud noise is a common cause of tinnitus, and it can damage hearing as well. Some medication and other diseases of the inner ear, like Meniere's syndrome, can cause tinnitus. Tinnitus can in very rare situations be a symptom of such serious problems as a brain aneurysm or a brain tumor, such as an acoustic neuroma. 

Treatment of tinnitus relies on exploring the patient's global health issues, as well as the patient's hearing. In many cases, there is no specific treatment for tinnitus because it may simply go away on its own, or it may be a permanent disability you learn to "live with." Occasionally adjusting medications, diet or lifestyle can be helpful. In other cases, amplifying ambient sound with a hearing aid can significantly reduce the annoyance of tinnitus.

A comprehensive medical history, physical examination and a series of diagnostic tests can help determine where the tinnitus is originating. If you experience persisting, unexplained tinnitus, you’ll need a hearing test (audiogram). Reviewing the patterns of your hearing loss may lead to the diagnosis. However, other tests, such as a brainstem auditory evoked response (BAEP), which is a computerized test of the hearing nerves and brain pathways; a computer tomography scan (CT) scan; or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be needed to rule out a tumor occurring on the hearing or balance nerve. All of these diagnostic studies can be performed within one of MOSA’s technologically advanced locations.