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What is Tinnitus, and What Does it Cause?

Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

Tinnitus is a constant or occasional ringing of varying volume. It is often best felt in silence. Rarely, the noise in the ear is synchronised with the heartbeat and becomes pulsating. This disorder can be triggered by an ENT organ or brain abnormality and should be diagnosed and treated by a specialist. It is the perception of sound in the absence of an external acoustic source. It is not an illness but can be a symptom of one.

Tinnitus is most often caused by disorders of the auditory analyzer; it can indicate various pathologies and  can also occur in short episodes for no apparent reason. Tinnitus or random ringing in the ears is a widespread pathology that affects approximately one in five adults. It is usually only uncomfortable but can sometimes interfere with the ability to concentrate and get adequate sleep. As a result, the patient experiences constant stress, negatively impacting personal relationships and work.

 

Why Do Ears Ring

Why do ears ring

There are several causes of tinnitus to explain what happens in the body when this pathology occurs:

  • Spontaneous electro acousticemission
  • Cortical organ damage
  • Normal aging process
  • Too much external noise
  • Cochlear damage
  • Tumour or haemorrhage
  • Lesions of the nerves
  • Hypersensitivity

 

Causes for ringing in ears include damage to parts of the auditory system – outer ear, middle ear, inner ear or brain

  • Spontaneous electroacoustic emission, i.e., spontaneous generation of electrical signals in the cochlea of the inner ear, which are perceived as tinnitus;
  • Cortical organ damage with impaired cochlear auditory cell function;
  • Dissonance between healthy and damaged cochlea cells, which may be caused by the normal aging process;
  • Increased activity of the posterior cochlear nuclei of the brain, caused by exposure to too much external noise;
  • Auditory plasticity, that is, activation of the nerve centers in response to hearing loss due to cochlear damage;
  • The formation of new connections between neurons of the auditory nerves when these are damaged, compressed by a tumor or haemorrhage, and the generation of impulses in them in the absence of external sound;
  • Lesions of the trigeminal, facial, lingual-pharyngeal and other cranial nerves, activating the so-called otosomatic interaction;
  • Increased limbic and autonomic nervous system activity due to hypersensitivity to the first episode of tinnitus.

 

What Are the Most Common Causes of Tinnitus?

The most common causes of ringing in the ears are usually related to some kind of hearing or nervous system disorder. Still, also it can be due to age changes, medicators or physical trauma. These are described in more detail below:

  • The most common cause of humming in the ears is loss of hearing. Due to age-related changes, injury or medication, the cochlea’s sensitive cells are damaged. The cochlea cells stop sending electrical signals to the brain, and the brain begins to generate its impulses to compensate for the lack of external stimuli.
  • Constantly ringing ears can be caused by illnesses in the outer or middle ear, such as earwax plugs, otitis media, narrowing of the ear canal and swelling of the tympanic cavity.
  • Exposure to loud noise is a very common cause not only of hearing loss but also noise in the ear. Everyone should be aware of the damaging effects of loud music, and machinery noise and protect themselves from such exposure. Barotrauma is another cause of hearing loss.
  • More than 200 medications can cause this symptom, most commonly aspirin, aminoglycoside antibiotics (gentamicin, kanamycin) and quinine derivatives. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, etacrynic acid, platinum derivatives, ACE inhibitors and other medications can cause the noise. Exposure to methyl alcohol and benzene is also dangerous.
  • Meniere’s disease is a condition accompanied by transient dizziness, random ringing and congestion in the ears, and temporary hearing loss.
  • Acoustic neuroma – a tumour affecting the nerve pathway from the cochlea to the brain centres, causing noise and hearing loss on one side.
  • Pulsating noise is usually associated with circulatory system abnormalities. It is seen in pregnancy, anemia, thyrotoxicosis, arteritis, and elevated intracranial pressure; vascular murmurs also occur in heart defects, vascular anomalies, and stenosis of the ear arteries.
  • Objective constantly ringing ears may be caused by diseases of the temporomandibular joint, soft palate muscle pathology, middle ear, and a gaping orifice of the eustachian tube in the nasopharynx.
  • Diseases that may cause humming in ears: hepatitis, diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, cervical spine instability or osteochondrosis, and various hereditary anomalies (Chiari, Klippel-Feil, Pence, Hunt, Konigsmark-Hollander-Berlin syndromes).

The causes and treatment for ringing in the ears are complex, and only a highly qualified otolaryngologist can fully understand the problem.

 

How to Understand if You Have Tinnitus?

How to understand if you have tinnitus

Noise manifestations in the ear include a variety of sounds heard by the patient. 

It can be: 

  • humming in ears
  • buzzing; 
  • the sound of a roaring aircraft engine;
  • hissing;
  • whistling or clicking.

 

It may be constant or occur only occasionally. If noise in the ear occurs, it is essential to see a doctor. It may not only be due to hearing loss but may also be a symptom of hypertension, hyperthyroidism, anemia or other complaints. In infectious ear diseases, noise may be accompanied by pain and discharge from the ear canal. If the noise is combined with dizziness, urgent medical attention is required, as it may be a manifestation of Meniere’s disease or cerebral circulation disorder.

In the case of brain tumours, this complaint increases at headache attacks. With a tumour in the posterior fossa, the noise increases with changes in body position.

 

Who Can Diagnose Tinnitus?

When you have answered the question, What is tinnitus?” You should consult an otolaryngologist, who will diagnose it and may refer you to other specialists for diagnosis if you suspect a condition unrelated to your hearing analyzer.

The following diagnostic tests are used to identify the cause of the tinnitus:

  • a complete physical examination, history, head, and neck examination and determination of cranial nerve function;
  • hearing test (subjective audiography);
  • objective audiological examination: brainstem auditory response (BCAR) and extratympanic electrocochleography;
  • computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging of the skull;
  • endoscopic nasopharyngoscopy to identify the cause of the muscle murmur;
  • microtoscopy;
  • in some cases, diagnosis of hypertension, hyperthyroidism and other therapeutic diseases;
  • spinal tap with the determination of intracranial pressure if indicated.

 

How Can You Treat Tinnitus?

How can you treat tinnitus

The disease can be treated with physical therapy, different types of medications, and mechanotherapy. Once the diagnosis is made and you clearly understand why your ears ring, the doctor will prescribe the necessary treatment to eliminate the cause of the noise in your head. The patient should be examined by an otorhinolaryngologist and a neurologist. The treatment of tinnitus depends on its cause. Different techniques are used for this purpose, e.g:

  • medication, including sedatives and sedatives as well as tranquillisers and neuroleptics;
  • drugs that improve blood flow to the hearing organ: Vinpocetine, Cinnarizine, ergot preparations, Predictal, Ginkgo biloba; Betahistine, B vitamins;
  • physiotherapy: light therapy, UHF, diathermy, ionophoresis, ultrasound;
  • mechanotherapy – Politzer balloon blowing, pneumomassage, auricular massage, cervical collar zone massage, vibro- and acoustic massage;
  • biofeedback and reflexotherapy;
  • use of hearing aids;
  • auditory nerve stimulation.

 

Schedule a Consultation with Lone Star Neurology

In summary, tinnitus is a complex process that requires accurate diagnosis with modern equipment and competent treatment. Treatment of humming in ears  at an early stage of the disease is much more effective. The Lone Star Neurology provides medical services to diagnose and select therapeutic techniques for tinnitus and the conditions that cause it. 

  • Any patient with tinnitus requires an individualized approach. The causes for ringing in ears have to be established, and the accompanying diseases, the emotional background, and the adverse domestic and occupational factors have to be assessed.
  • The doctor must find out about the use of ototoxic drugs or persistent intoxication. Often, the patient requires further consultation with a cardiologist, haematologist, allergist, or endocrinologist. 
  • Only a comprehensive examination and treatment can eliminate or reduce the patient’s discomfort. It is advisable to consult a qualified physician if you experience constantly ringing ears. They are our competent doctors from Lone Star Neurology who can help you with these problems!

 

FAQ

  • What is the main cause of tinnitus?

The causes of tinnitus are usually related to some kind of hearing or nervous system disorder. The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss. Due to age-related changes, injury or medication, the sensitive cells in the cochlea become damaged.

  • What helps tinnitus go away?

Tinnitus or ringing in the ears or head is often untreatable, but the good news is that tinnitus can be controlled. The latest technological solutions in audiology and surdology can help.

  • What are the first signs of tinnitus?

Tinnitus is characterised by prolonged, chronic tinnitus. Ringing is not the only sound that indicates tinnitus. Some people can hear buzzing, humming, hissing and even murmuring. The depth, pitch and tone of the sound can vary.

  • Is tinnitus serious?

The main danger of constantly ringing ears  is that it can signify another condition that needs to be identified and treated. Therefore, it is best to see a doctor if you have any noise in your ears. 

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Lone Star Neurology
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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been prepared.read more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well together.read more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your business.read more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any cookies.read more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going there.read more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my treatment.read more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to finish.read more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 stars.read more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his staff.read more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best treatment.read more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my doctor.read more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding solutions.read more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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