Tinnitus is not a disease rather an annoying symptom of myriad of conditions, caused by minor changes in the sensitive hearing system (Cochlea and auditory nerve).
Tinnitus (means ringing in Latin) is sound sensation in the ear or head, in the absence of any external source of sound. Commonest types are hissing, roaring, swishing, rustling, buzzing, humming, or chirping.
(Photo by nathaniel)
Tinnitus varies in pitch and loudness and is more annoying in quiet surroundings, particularly at night. It can be quite disturbing leading to sleep deprivation, depression & decreased work efficiency. Most important aspect of tinnitus is distress, irritation and distraction caused by the noise. Person often feels that such noise is a symptom of brain tumor or stroke. In most cases tinnitus is not harmful.
Patient with tinnitus should undergo thorough ENT and Audiological evaluation and if required neurological examination. ‘Nothing can be done and you have to live with it’ is to be avoided and patient should be investigated properly to find any treatable condition.
Treatment of the cause should take care of tinnitus but tinnitus may persist even after the disease causing tinnitus has been cured, When a lesion or disease process is not identifiable, then tinnitus management is more difficult.
In majority of cases our system adapts to noise over a period of time and is accepted as a part of normal environment. This process can be helped by proper reassurance and counseling. Relaxation, biofeedback and Yoga help to improve coping with the condition.
Hearing aids are helpful for tinnitus with hearing loss and tinnitus maskers are sometimes recommended. These are similar to hearing aids and generate continuous noise. Their use is based on the fact that the patient is more comfortable in a noisy environment than in a quiet surrounding.
Research shows encouraging result on the effectiveness of pharmacological therapy for tinnitus, such as carbamazepine, lidocaine, and intravenous barbiturates, but potentially serious side effects limit their use.