Tinnitus is understood to mean pathological ringing in the ears that either recurs repeatedly or even occurs continuously, i.e. chronically. Those affected hear an unpleasant tone or noise, which can usually be perceived as whistling, ringing or buzzing. The main reasons for tinnitus can be psychological as well as pathological and physical causes.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus (tinnitus auriumfg) is understood to mean a wide variety of ear noises. These can be persistent or recurring noises and tones, which can only be perceived subjectively by the person affected without there being any external acoustic stimulation. Tinnitus can be triggered in the ear or in the brain. For migraine dictionary definitions, please visit foodanddrinkjournal.com.
It is divided into three different types. In the case of acute tinnitus, the symptoms last up to three months. If there is subacute tinnitus, the symptoms last three to twelve months. Chronic tinnitus is when the ringing in the ears has been present for more than twelve months.
Furthermore, there is a classification into four different degrees of severity. Levels I and II fall under compensated tinnitus. This type does not yet cause any health problems. Grades III and IV are called decompensated tinnitus. It is already having serious health effects.
Tinnitus can have a variety of causes. Blockages within the auditory canal caused by earwax, protruding bones (exostoxes) or foreign bodies can lead to tinnitus. In the middle ear, this can be caused by a defect in the eardrum. But a tube dysfunction, a tympanic effusion, an immobility of the eardrum or an inflammation of the middle ear can also lead to tinnitus.
The inner ear can be a trigger for tinnitus through a noise – or age-related hearing impairment as well as through medication or a sharp drop in blood pressure. Furthermore, meningitis, anemia, incorrect blood pressure, multiple sclerosis or a brain tumor can lead to tinnitus. Ringing in the ears or tinnitus can also occur as a symptom of sudden hearing loss.
Typical Symptoms & Signs
The key symptom of tinnitus is the sensation of noise in the ear. These can sound like hissing, humming, buzzing, crackling, ringing, hissing or whistling. Depending on the severity and intensity, tinnitus symptoms can be very distressing.
Only in the case of objective tinnitus can another person also perceive the noises in the affected person’s ear. In most cases, it is ringing in the ears that is described as subjective tinnitus. Only the person concerned is burdened with it. Others cannot hear the ringing in the ears, even if they perceive it as loud and annoying.
However, the tinnitus noises are not imaginary. They can be caused by tense neck muscles, constant stress, hearing damage or other triggers and are therefore real. With a corresponding degree of intensity, they can be so stressful for those affected that they suffer from subsequent complaints.
Often the triggers of tinnitus are not identified, so the symptoms persist. This can lead to subsequent symptoms such as depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating, headaches, dizziness, jumpiness when hearing high-pitched sounds, sleep disorders or being unable to work. If the symptoms are severe, participation in social activities is disturbed. Social withdrawal sometimes ensues because the tinnitus makes hearing difficult.
Doctors also call the accompanying symptoms mentioned secondary symptoms. These can lead to a real tinnitus vicious circle. This culminates in depression, social withdrawal and inability to work.
The complications associated with tinnitus can be divided into two categories: those related to an underlying medical condition and those that can be triggered by the tinnitus itself.
The former complications range from consequential damage due to nerve damage to the complications that can occur with inflammation, Meniere’s disease, vasoconstriction or thrombosis in the corresponding area. It is in cases where the underlying condition is known to be considered.
In most cases, however, tinnitus remains without complications, even if left untreated. Only a few percent of all those affected experience serious or permanent symptoms. Rarely, hearing loss and deafness can result from the tinnitus itself (caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels that causes it).
Overstimulation of the sense of hearing (hyperacusis) is possible: those affected suffer from an enormously increased perception of noises, which causes pain. Chronic tinnitus can also set in and leads to permanent stress for those affected. Chronic tinnitus is often accompanied by psychological problems, which can range from depression to suicide. However, adequate tinnitus therapy can prevent this.
When should you go to the doctor?
If the typical ringing or beeping occurs, a doctor should be consulted. Constant or recurring noises in the ears indicate tinnitus, which must be examined by a doctor. A doctor should be consulted within a week if the symptoms have not subsided in the meantime. In 50 percent of cases, the tinnitus only lasts for a few hours or days. If it disappears by itself, no medical investigation is necessary. In the event of repeated complaints, the ear specialist should be consulted . Accompanying symptoms such as headaches, dizziness or fever indicate a serious cause.
The person concerned must quickly consult a specialist and have the symptoms clarified. Otherwise the tinnitus can increase or even persist permanently. In the worst case, there is a risk of hearing loss. Patients who suffer from chronic tinnitus should inform the doctor of increasing symptoms. Tinnitus is treated by an audiologist. A general practitioner can usually make an initial suspected diagnosis. In the case of stress-related tinnitus, the patient may need to see a therapist so that the causes of the stress can be broken down and eliminated. The earlier the tinnitus is treated, the better the chances of recovery.
Treatment & Therapy
A successful therapy of tinnitus depends on the causes as well as on the duration of the illness. Therefore there is also the already mentioned classification. The earlier treatment is started, the more likely it is that treatment will be successful. In the case of acute tinnitus in the area of the inner ear or with an unknown cause, an infusion of sugar solution or a combination of saline solution and glucocorticoids is given. This should lead to a renewed activation of the sensory cells.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can also be used. This eliminates a lack of oxygen in the inner ear. If the cause of the tinnitus is a blockage in the auditory canal, the reason for this can often be removed without any problems. In the case of subacute or chronic tinnitus, the chances of treatment are much lower. The infusions already mentioned are also administered here. This is done in conjunction with psychotherapy. By learning relaxation techniques such as yoga, autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation, the symptoms of tinnitus should be alleviated.
If none of this leads to an improvement in the symptoms, tinnitus retraining therapy according to Jastreboff is used. The aim here is to suppress the tinnitus from consciousness.
The aim of aftercare is to maintain the patient’s quality of life and to show ways of dealing with the tinnitus. Since tinnitus becomes chronic in many cases and cannot be cured, it is a matter of patient acceptance once the diagnosis and treatment have been completed. In the case of depressive moods, it is advisable to consult a psychotherapist.
In therapy, patients can learn to live with the ringing in their ears and to concentrate on other areas of life again. You should also visit the hearing aid acoustician. Since tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, hearing aids can help to improve hearing and at the same time draw attention away from the tinnitus.
If there is no hearing loss, there is the possibility of a so-called noiser or masker. This is a hearing aid that produces an adapted noise. This is intended to cover up the tinnitus and helps many sufferers in everyday life. However, some people do not need such noise permanently. For many, tinnitus only bothers them in quiet situations.
Here it can be helpful to switch on a counter-noise, such as soft relaxing music or the sound of the sea. Last but not least, those affected should make sure to avoid stress and listen to their bodies better. If the cause of the tinnitus is known, it should be avoided in the future.
You can do that yourself
Tinnitus is a hearing disorder where patience and stress reduction are very important. Patients can therefore do a lot for themselves and their health in everyday life. First of all, it helps to think that tinnitus can heal spontaneously or at least improve significantly. Since tinnitus is often a warning signal from the body to pay more attention to one’s own health and, above all, to the needs of the psyche, relaxation is particularly important. This can be done using methods such as progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen (PMR) or autogenic training. Yoga, with its mixture of physical exercises, breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation, can also reduce stress and restore inner balance.
Rest is helpful with tinnitus, but should not be confused with social withdrawal. For example, asking for sick leave is certainly helpful, especially in a stressful job, and loud music should also be avoided, at least in the acute phase. Maintaining social contact is important to prevent tinnitus from causing isolation. Nicotine and alcohol, including coffee, should ideally be significantly restricted. However, drinking enough is important. It is best to cover it with water or herbal teas. Self-help groups that specialize in tinnitus offer a helpful exchange of experiences and valuable tips for those affected.