While tinnitus is estimated to affect 10% of Canadians, treatment depends on the causes of the tinnitus and results can vary from patient to patient.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a condition in which sufferers “hear” sounds when there is no sound present. The perceived sounds are variously described by sufferers as ringing, hissing, buzzing, whistling, ticking, “crickets”, sizzling and sometimes a whooshing sound of wind and waves.
The Causes of Tinnitus
There are two main types: objective and subjective tinnitus.
Causes Of Objective Tinnitus
Objective tinnitus is caused by an actual sound in the ear. The sound is sometimes detectable by a hearing specialist and can be caused by either muscle spasms in the ear or changes in the blood flow near the ear.
Causes Of Subjective Tinnitus
While noise-induced hearing loss is the most common cause of subjective tinnitus, there are many others. Very often, however, there is no apparent cause:
- Conductive hearing Loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Ototoxic medications
- Neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis and head injury
- Metabolic disorders, including thyroid disease and iron deficiencies
- Psychiatric disorders, including depression and anxiety
- Other causes can include:
Treatment For Tinnitus
Objective tinnitus can be treated with radiosurgery, implants and simply clearing the ear canal of wax.
The results of treatments for subjective tinnitus are less reliable, often ineffective and there is no known treatment that completely eliminates this condition in every patient.
Treatments for subjective tinnitus can include the following (again, results are unreliable and can vary widely):
- Drugs – including lidocaine and benzodiazepines
- Vitamins and Nutrients – including lipoflavonoid and zinc
- Electrical Stimulation
- Sound Therapy
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Before You Get Tinnitus Treatment
In most cases, tinnitus is accompanied by, and can be a symptom of hearing loss. Due to the unreliability of common treatments, it is important for sufferers to treat their current hearing loss and to help prevent further loss and more severe tinnitus.