Tinnitus Test (Ringing in the Ear)

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What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a medical term describing the ringing, hissing, buzzing, or other noises in the ears. The noise you hear in one or both of your ears is usually not external, and others can’t hear it. It is a common condition that affects nearly 20% of the elderly. It is an age-related hearing loss affecting the circulatory system or the parts of the brain where sounds are processed. It often gets worse when background noise is low, such as at midnight when you are trying to sleep in a quiet room. For many people, the signs get better with an underlying treatment. Dealing with tinnitus can be frustrating. But if the signs aggravate, you may have social anxiety or stress, making it tough for you to lead a healthy life. 

Tinnitus Causes

The exact cause of tinnitus is not fully understood. In many cases deviations in the working of the nervous system that process sound may be responsible for tinnitus. The other common causes of tinnitus may include:-

1. Exposure to loud noises: It is common to experience tinnitus after you are exposed to loud music, such as at a music event or concert. 

2. Hearing loss: 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 are likely at risk of age-related tinnitus. 

3. Ear infections: Earwax or fluid buildup in the ear canal can trigger tinnitus. 

4. Side effects of some medications: Certain medications, such as NSAIDs, antibiotics, and antidepressants, can damage your ears, especially if consumed in high dosages. 

5. Head or ear injury: An injury in your head or neck can damage the nerves that send sound signals to the brain resulting in a condition called tinnitus. 

6. Emotional stress: Exposure to chronic stress can affect a part of the brain that processes sounds. 

Tinnitus Symptoms

The symptoms of tinnitus can vary significantly from individual to individual. These may include: 

1. Ringing: You may experience ringing in your ears when others are not able to. 

2. Roaring: A roaring sound even when you are sitting in a quiet place. 

3. Buzzing: Continuous or intermittent buzzing that may vary in loudness. 

4. Hissing: Phantom noises like hissing are also common in people experiencing tinnitus. 

5. Whistling: It may occur as if someone is whistling in your ears.


How to Diagnose Tinnitus

Your doctor may ask questions about your medical history and suggest diagnostic tests based on the symptoms you are experiencing. The tinnitus test will help identify the underlying cause of this condition. 

1. Hearing test (audiometry): This test checks your ability to hear different sounds from the environment. 

2. Tympanometry: This test involves checking the functionality of your eardrum with a tympanometer. 

3. Imaging tests: CT or MRI scan gets detailed images of your body. 

4. Tinnitogram test (psychoacoustical measurements): It is a testing method to rule out subjective tinnitus using a pitch-match test.  


Tinnitus Treatment

If your healthcare provider rules out you have tinnitus, he may suggest a treatment approach to manage its impact. These treatment approaches may include:-

1. Maskers: A masker is an electronic hearing machine that produces broad-band or narrow-band noises to mask the presence of tinnitus or ear sounds. The treatment approach helps you get accustomed to the voices in your ears.

2. Hearing aids: If the cause of tinnitus is age-related hearing loss, your healthcare professional may recommend using hearing aid machines for better hearing.

3. Counselling: Behavioural therapy may help you live with the symptoms of tinnitus. Over time, you may become less worried about the ringing in your ears. These therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), may help you cope with other problems linked to tinnitus, such as anxiety or depression.

4. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT): TRT involves using sound masking and counselling from a trained professional. Over time, it may help you feel less distressed by tinnitus. 


How to Prevent Tinnitus Problem

Protecting your ears from loud noises in your surroundings is one of the best ways to avoid tinnitus. Avoid overexposing yourself to loud noises and sounds, such as while listening to music. Here are some ways to prevent tinnitus:-

1. At a workplace: If you’re working around a construction site or military area, it is best to protect your hearing with earplugs. 

2. At music events or concerts: The loud music at music concerts may damage your eardrums. The best way to safeguard your ear is to use protective earplugs.

3. At the gym: Many gyms play loud music to make exercising fun. If so is the case, you can use protective earplugs to guard your ears. 

FAQ Related to Tinnitus Test

If your healthcare provider has ruled out tinnitus, he may recommend ways to manage the impact of tinnitus in your life. Using an electronic device or hearing aids is the best way to suppress the ringing in your ears. A hearing device makes tinnitus less noticeable by amplifying the environmental sounds.

Tinnitus usually does not go away on its own. Some people get used to it with time, making noises less noticeable. To lessen the effects of tinnitus in your day-to-day life, healthcare professionals recommend using hearing machines to suppress the noises in your ears.

Treatment for tinnitus depends on the underlying cause of the condition. For instance, if the cause of tinnitus is earwax buildup, removing the blockage can decrease the signs of tinnitus. Other ways include using electronic devices or hearing aids to make tinnitus less noticeable. 

If you have tinnitus, you may experience different types of noise in one or both of your ears. This buzzing, roaring, hissing, clicking, whistling voice in your ears is not external. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional and get yourself diagnosed to rule out any underlying condition.