Tinnitus - Have you experienced it yet?

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Biology 202
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Tinnitus - Have you experienced it yet?

Andrea Byrd

Can you ever recall hearing a strange annoying noise in your ears that remained constant for days or seemed recurrent? If you answered yes to this question then you may be one of the 50,000,000 individuals in the U.S. who suffer from tinnitus. Almost everyone at one time or another has experienced brief periods of mild ringing or other sounds in the ear and it is estimated that one out of every five people experience some degree of tinnitus (1). The presence of tinnitus is a very common and annoying occurrence that affects about 17% of the general population and 33% of the elderly (2). With such statistics, could it be that we are all most likely destined to become a victim of tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the internal perception of sound when there actually is no external sound present. It is a symptom that can occur in either or both ears or can seem as if it is coming from somewhere in the head. Tinnitus can sound like a bell, whistle, roar, screech, hum, crickets, tone, something else, or any combination of the above. It can be continuous, pulsatile, or can fluctuate in character or loudness (3).

Tinnitus is classified into two forms: objective and subjective. Objective tinnitus, the rarer form, consists of a sound that may be audible to people other than the sufferer. The noises are usually caused by vascular diseases or abnomalies, repetitive muscle contractions, or inner ear structural defects. The sounds are heard by the sufferer and are generally external to the auditory system. Benign causes, such as noise from the jaw joint, openings of the Eustachian tubes, or repetitive muscle contractions may be the cause of objective tinnitus. It can be an early sign of increased intracranial pressure and is often overshadowed by other neurologic abnormalities. Subjective tinnitus may occur anywhere in the auditory system and is much less understood, with the causes being many and open to debate. The sounds heard by the sufferer may range form metallic ringing, buzzing, blowing, or roaring to a clanging, popping, or nonrhythmic beating (4).

To understand what causes tinnitus, it is important to know a little bit about the ear itself. The main mechanism of hearing is the cochlea, located in the inner ear. The cochlea is lined with tiny hair cells which, when stimulated by sound waves, send electrical signal to the brain that are then translated into sound. In the hearing impaired, these hair cells are damaged or destroyed, causing partial or total hearing loss. Trauma to the cochlea from loud noises or accidents can also cause hair cell damage. The most frequent cause of tinnitus is related to hair cell damage (5).

For many sufferers, the exact cause of their symptoms remains a mystery to health care professionals. Only when a specific factor is linked to the appearance or disappearance of the tinnitus can a cause be stated with certainty. Blows to the head, large doses of certain drugs, anemia, hypertension, noise exposure, stress, impacted ear wax and certain types of tumors are examples of conditions that might cause tinnitus (6).

To give a closer investigation of tinnitus, some possible causes include the following:

Hearing loss

Noise exposure--Repeated exposure to such loud noises as guns, artillery, aircraft, lawn mowers, movie theaters, amplified music, heavy construction, etc., can cause permanent hearing damage. Some people report auditory fatigue from driving automobiles long distances with the windows down. Anyone regularly exposed to these conditions should considerwearing ear plugs or other hearing protection. The noise from MRI scanners is typically very loud. Headphones are usually provided, however if they are not, ear plugs should be used.

Ototoxic drugs--Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs may cause tinnitus and/or hearing loss that may be permanent or may disappear when the dosage is reduced or eliminated.

Food--Specific foods may trigger tinnitus. Problem foods include red wine, grain-based spirits, cheese, and chocolate. Tinnitus may also be caused by foods rich in salicylates (the same ingredient as in aspirin, which also causes tinnitus when taken in large amounts).

Marijuana usage--may worsen pre-existing cases of tinnitus.

Lyme disease--a parasitic, tick-borne disease, which in the United States is most commonly seen in eastern states. In some cases, tinnitus has been a side-effect of Lyme.

Growths/tumors--Acoustic neuromas, glomous tumors, otosclerosis may all cause tinnitus. Surgery may be recommended.

Wax or dirt build-up in the ear canal--If you're experiencing tinnitus, this is one of the first things you should check for. NEVER try digging or suctioning the ear canal yourself or allow a physician to do it as SERIOUS damage may result. Numerous over-the-counter chemical washes are available from your drugstore which may clean the ear canal.

Severe ear infections-- Tinnitus can occur after an inner ear infection.

High blood cholesterol--clogs arteries that supply oxygen to the nerves of the inner ear. Reducing your cholesterol level may reduce your tinnitus.

Vascular abnormalities--Arteries may press too closely against the inner ear structures or nerves. This is sometimes correctable by delicate surgery.

Stress--Stress is not a direct cause of tinnitus, but it may generally make an already existing case worse.

Diet and other lifestyle choices--Like stress, a poor diet can worsen an existing case of tinnitus. Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, quinine/tonic water, high fat, and high sodium can all make tinnitus worse in some people.

Intracranial hypertension--Can cause pulsatile tinnitus.

Traumatic head injuries--Some automobile crash victims have reported a sudden onset of tinnitus.

Dental procedures--Strain on the temporomandibular joint during any dental work may cause tinnitus.

Cochlear implant or other skull surgeries--Sometimes surgery within the skull will accidentally damage the hearing system. Tinnitus, or even profound deafness caused be severe inner ear infections, may result(4).

There is a great possibility that we all will experience tinnitus, if we have not already. The number one cause of tinnitus is exposure to excessively loud noise. Rock concerts, movie theaters, nightclubs, construction sites, guns, power tools, stereo headphones, and musical instruments are just some of the things that can be hazardous to the ears. Damage can result from either a single exposure or cumulative trauma.(4). Noise, in general, can be viewed as an everyday function that helps us to live normally, however it can prevent some people from leading a normal life. About one million sufferers are so seriously debilitated that they cannot function on a day-to-day basis. The upsetting notion of tinnitus is that it can strike people of all ages and, for most, it does not go away. Tinnitus is just a nuisance for some, but for others it is a stressful, life-altering condition (7).

 

WWW Sources

1) Tinnitus FAQ- Discovering and Understanding

2) Tinnitus Information Network

3) Tinnitus & Loudness Sensitivity Center

4)Tinnitus Relief Center: FAQ

5) Tinnitus Relief Center: About Tinnitus

6) ASHA Brochure - Tinnitus

7) American Tinnitus Association

 

 

Continuing conversation
(to contribute your own observations/thoughts, post a comment below)

10/15/2005, from a Reader on the Web

I have bi-lateral tinnitus. I have heard that people who have their audio nerve severed to deal with this problem are deaf but still hear the ringing. This is even more than seing without sight or hearing without audio apperatus. Is the sound like phantom limb sydrome where a severed appendage still gives the amputee "pain". But then in those who have not hads the procedure where does it come from. Many people have experienced temprary tinnitus after hearing a loud explosion, but it goes away. Why? Ed Kopanski kopanski at myway.com

 

Comments

Serendip Visitor's picture

ok

i loveeee allll the noisessssss in my head ...ahahahhah

Serendip Visitor's picture

Pulsatile tinnitus

I have had PT for a couple of years. The whooshing gets worse in head if I do any physical exercise. I guess I will just have to live with it but if anybody found anything to help like alternative healing I would be interested to hear of their experience.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Tinnitus as a pain message arising from Eustachian tube

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to know whether there were people experiencing tinnitus after an explosion and if among those they could stop it by forcing ear"popping" (staphylian muscle) as I can. My tinnitus stops after this ear pop for a second or so like when I clench my jaws (lasts less time and less effective) but to higher extent.

This is also to start the debate about tinnitus being merely a "pain" message (at least for tinnitus due to blast trauma), indeed tinnitus was shown to be likely influenced by nociceptive signals (nerve pain signals)in some recent study so why not also conceiving it could be the other round with a nociceptive signal being at the origin of tinnitus?Is that totally a non-sense?
For those having tinnitus in relation to a blast trauma why not imagining tinnitus could originate from Eustachian trump dysfunction, which in some cases leads to tinnitus (scuba-diving/pressure trauma related tinnitus) ?

Thanks for your feedback

M.

sk's picture

tinnitus is diminishing

I've seen the chiropractor and he has told me that the Eustachian tubes and the Tympanic membranes in the ear are very sensitive. He is treating my tinnitus by adjusting my jaw and I am supposed to massage the area under and behind my earlobes for two weeks until I see him again. Happily, my tinnitus is already almost gone. I have been taking all the supplements I mentioned in my second post and I have been very consciously relaxing. Even the ear is full of muscles and membranes. I've been massaging my ears, relaxing my neck by just lying down on my back and of course avoiding physical exertion as well as stress. I actually find that drinking a bit of white wine also helps. And finally, I have doubled up on my magnesium intake, because magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant. 250 mg in the morning and 250 mg with a glass of milk at night. Hope this helps.

Joseph's picture

tinnitus-please help

I came accross your story involving a chiropractor, and found it very interesting because my situations with tinnitus appears to be very similiar. I have not been able to find a chiropractor who understands my condition. I live in the NY area and would like to know if you can give me your Chiropractors contact information and send it to . This would help me a great deal.

God Bless

Joseph

sk's picture

Chiropractor can help

Hi again,

A footnote to my last post about Temporomandibular Joint Inflammation. I'm taking these natural anti-inflammatories..Bragg's Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (1 tsp in water 3x a day) B Vitamins, 1000 mg C, Calcium/D3/Zinc/Magnesium, and Vitamin E. You have to eat only SOFT food for a while to stop aggravating your TMJ. My chiropractor said he has cured tinnitus by manipulating the jaw joint. I've got an appointment for next week. My tinnitus is down to almost nothing and it's only been a few days. Hope this helps.

Here's some info from some research I found when I googled Temporomandibular Joint and tinnitus
The TMJ can go wrong in many ways. The dysfunction may be acute (arthralgia) as a consequence of say, a pulled jaw muscle or a dislocation of the fibrous disc, or a more chronic problem as a result of arthritis or chronic teeth grinding at night for example. The symptoms that usually result from this are pain, which may even be felt as earache, clunking of the jaw, and limitation of movement, causing poor mouth opening (truisms). Other symptoms that may arise are swelling of the joint, headaches,neck pain and TINNITUS.
Treatment involves a change to a soft diet and the use of anti-inflammatory medicines and pain-killers. In some case a bit appliance may be made and fitted to alter the way in which the jaw works. Tinnitus should improve as the TMJ function improves with treatment.

Joseph's picture

Releaf from Tinnitus

If you can give me the contact information of your Chiorpractor, this would help me, please send to
I live in the NY area, and would like to speak with him.

God Bless Joseph

sk's picture

Temporomandibular Joint and Tinnitus

I discovered this ray of hope. Try Googling my title, this could probably help at least some of you out there. Apparently this kind of tinnitus will go away once you've treated the inflammation of the Temporomandibular Joint. Research your anti-inflammatory drugs carefully, I'm going to stick to the natural ones for starters. The site I found was the British Tinnitus Association. Good luck.

Conrad  Simone's picture

Reiki

How do you do reiki? So that I can tell my friend who currently have tinnitus.

Susan's picture

I have Tinnitus

I have had Tinnitus for almost three years. I wrote a post about it on my blog at

Lately, it has become louder and more uncomfortable. I don't know why it is louder sometimes and not other times. I can't think of anything that might trigger it. It is constant and never stops, but it seems like it changes in loudness. The only time I don't hear it is when I sleep. In fact, when it gets so unbearable, I take a nap. For some reason, the Tinnitus does not interfere with my sleep.

I wish there was a cure, or at least something I could do to minimize it.

Susan
Susan's Musings

sk's picture

Have you tried eating only

Have you tried eating only soft food for a couple of weeks? You might have Temporomandibular Joint Inflammation, like I did. The less you chew, the less buzzing you're going to hear. I couldn't even chew a tomato for a while. Stick to scrambled eggs, oatmeal, soup, macaroni etc. Good luck!

Serendip Visitor SD's picture

Tinnitus 24/7 for many years

I believe I have tinnitus in my right ear and it's been there for many years. It's at its worst when I awaken from a nap and then the volume of the sound diminishes over time, but is constantly present. When I can ignore it, I hardly notice it, but when I focus on the sound it seems to get louder and more annoying. It feels like it's in the side of my head as well as my ear and earplugs have no effect so it seems that what people describe as a ringing in the ears really isn't coming from the ear at all. From my personal experience I know that there is no cure, just my choice of tuning in or tuning out. Accepting what we cannot change makes life easier.

sk's picture

The fact that it's only on

The fact that it's only on one side means you should see an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist). Could be something like an access etc. Don't accept the first thing doctors tell you. I went to 8 different doctors and finally found my solution on the Internet (Tempormandibular Joint Inflammation). Good Luck.

Tinnitus Cure's picture

Tinnitus Cure

Is there a cure for tinnitus that you know of? It seems like certain things help to a degree, but there is not a fool proof cure yet.

Pari 's picture

Coping with tinnitus

Yes there are quite a few treatment for tinnitus but unfourtunately for me, I have not found any that actually work. I cope best with the discomfort during bedtime by actually having the radio on, at a very low volume ( you can bearly hear it ) and that is enough to distract me from the constant ringing.

Edward Kopanski's picture

Tinnitus

I have had severe bi-lateral constant 24/7 tinnitus for more then 45 years. Immediate and progressive hearing loss also is documented. No prortorted "cure" has any effect

Tom Taylor's picture

i do Reiki and have seen it

i do Reiki and have seen it gives tremendous relieve to tinnitus...but the degree of relief changes from person to person.thanks

great point. Thanks for sharing.

Tom

Carl's picture

Pulsatile Tinnitus

I have been diagnosed with subjective Tinnitus, even though I suspected I might have had objective Tinnitus. The noise is a whooshing sound that is more intense at night when I went to bed, which seems common for the more rare form of Tinnitus.

As it turns out, I was more aware of the whooshing sound at night because it, of course, was very quiet when I went to bed. It turns out the cause of my Tinnitus was due to operating heavy machinery (triple deck riding lawn mowers) without ear protection. Now, I sleep with a fan because I do not want to take any meds for a seemingly tolerable condition, so far at least.

Joan  Gillespie's picture

Tinnitus

There is a treatment known as Neuromonics Oasis. It is costly and available through an audiologist who will assess your tinnitus. It is helped me to some degree

Tinnitus Treatment's picture

Tinnitus Treatment

Unfortunately I have tinnitus. I got it from being at to many loud rock concerts.
I use a white noise generator to go to sleep at night. I wish there were some kind of cure for this.

priyasree's picture

treatment of tinnitus

i do Reiki and have seen it gives tremendous relieve to tinnitus...but the degree of relief changes from person to person.thanks

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