Tinnitus, that buzzing or ringing in your ears, isn’t a condition in itself. It’s actually a symptom of some other underlying condition such as inflammation or hearing loss from aging or from noise exposure. It can develop after an upper respiratory infection like a cold or flu. It’s rarely a sign of anything serious.
Although as many as one in five people experience tinnitus, it’s typically just a fleeting phenomenon that doesn’t cause much trouble. For some sufferers, however, the ringing can be so loud that it interferes with their ability to concentrate and hear properly. For other truly unlucky victims, tinnitus is not just annoying but also persistent.
Common causes of tinnitus include:
- Overexposure to loud noise. Those of us who came of age going to rock concerts know that tinnitus can be a temporary problem when the music finally stops. More lasting effects can result from exposure to construction equipment, subways, chainsaws, guns, or even personal music players when the volume is high.
- Blockage. If earwax accumulates, it can irritate the eardrum and cause tinnitus.
- Age. Starting around age 60, hearing starts to worsen. This hearing loss can be sufficient to cause tinnitus.
- Inner ear damage. The tiny hairs in your inner ear vibrate in response to sound waves, triggering an electrical signal from your ear to your brain. Your brain reads these signals as sounds. If the hairs are damaged, they’re stimulated to send out the impulse (and keep sending it) even in the absence of sound.
Treatment of tinnitus begins with seeing an otolaryngologist such as Dr. Yagoda of Manhattan, New York (NY), who specializes in treatment of the ear, nose, and throat. She can diagnose tinnitus with a hearing evaluation, physical exam, and if needed, imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans. Once the root cause of your tinnitus has been discovered, Dr. Yagoda can offer a full spectrum of care including natural supplements, medications, lifestyle changes, and even surgery if it’s required. Dr. Yagoda’s office is located in New York City (NYC)/ Manhattan, NY.