Jason Hamilton (Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon) gives expert video advice on: How is tinnitus treated?; What can I do to prevent tinnitus or lessen its severity? and more...
What is "tinnitus"?
Tinnitus is a sound that the patient appreciates in their ear that no one else can hear. It's usually in the form of a high pitched ringing noise. Tinnitus can be present all the time or it can be intermittent. Another form of tinnitus is a pulsatile tinnitus, where the patient hears their own heartbeat within their ear that no one else can hear.
What are the different types of tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be divided into subjective and objective tinnitus. Objective tinnitus would be like if you have a heart murmer and the pulse of that is transmitted to your ear. Your doctor can hear that with a stethoscope. That would be an objective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus, which is much more common, only the patient can hear themselves. It can be in the form of a ringing noies, or it can be a pulsation of their own heartbeat as well.
What causes tinnitus and is it a serious condition?
Tinnitus is usually caused by some degeneration in the hair cells, which are the cells that allow us to hear, and transmit the noises that we hear to the nerves and brain. Tinnitus can be a minor nusiance, or it can be a significant impairment for patients, depending on the level of the tinnitus and the loudness. Some patients just ignore it, whereas some patients need medical treatment for their tinnitus.
How is tinnitus treated?
Tinnitus can be treated with different medications. Some of them include anti-depressants that help to balance the chemical response in the brain and decrease the tinnitus. Other treatments for tinnitus use maskers, which are similar to hearing aids, that match the pitch and cancel it out. It's like fire fighting fire. Sometimes, the tinnitus is always present but a patient has a hearing loss, so they appreciate the noise more. Giving them a hearing aid so that they can hear ambient noises at a louder volume drowns out the tinnitus, too.