Tinnitus: What Causes It and How To Manage It

by | Nov 15, 2021 | News

Approximately 50 million people in the United States, or 15% of the general public, experience an audiological and neurological condition called tinnitus. Even when there is no actual external noise present, people with tinnitus perceive sound. It is sometimes also called “ringing in the ears,” but people with the condition describe different sound sensations:





Tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease in itself. Many different conditions can cause it, and while there is no cure, there are management options that have shown to be effective at keeping the ringing in the ears under control.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Rarely, tinnitus is caused by abnormal musculoskeletal or circulatory functions. In these instances, other people may be able to hear the noises as well. This type of objective tinnitus occurs in less than 1% of all cases. Ninety-nine percent of reported tinnitus cases are subjective, meaning they are only perceivable by the patient.

The most common cause of subjective tinnitus is sensorineural hearing loss. This results from damage to the auditory system from exposure to loud noises or degeneration with age. Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by exposure to a single loud noise, such as an explosion, or exposure to high noise levels over time.

Tinnitus can also be caused by a traumatic brain injury, sinus pressure, temporomandibular joint disorder, or trauma to the head and neck. Some medications, referred to as ototoxic medications, can cause ringing in the ears as a side effect.

Recently, people who have been sick with COVID-19 report either new onset of tinnitus or exacerbation of existing symptoms. The potentially COVID-induced ringing in the ears persists long after the most serious symptoms have resolved. Because COVID is still a new disease, it is not clear whether the coronavirus is a direct or indirect cause of tinnitus or whether the ringing in the ears is permanent.

How Is Tinnitus Managed?

Tinnitus cannot be cured, but there are several techniques used to manage it more effectively. Treatments for ringing in the ears may involve counseling, electronic noise suppression, or a combination of the two.
Counseling can help teach coping strategies that help patients to deal with ringing in the ears more effectively, reducing the negative effect it has on your life. Tinnitus is often also accompanied by mental health conditions of depression or anxiety, and counseling can help you deal with those symptoms as well.

Ringing in the ears is often worse when the environment is quiet. A masking device is worn in the ear like a hearing aid and produces low-level white noise in a continuous fashion to suppress tinnitus. If you have both hearing loss and ringing in the ears, it may be possible to obtain a combined hearing aid and masking device to treat both problems at the same time.

If the tinnitus is caused by medications or an underlying medical condition, treating the underlying condition or changing medications under a doctor’s supervision may resolve the symptoms.

An audiological evaluation at HEAR Center may help determine the cause of your symptoms. Contact us to schedule an appointment.