Tinnitus Q & A

What’s tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a perception of sound that someone hears in the absence of that sound actually occurring in the environment around them. Sometimes it's temporary, which might occur after someone's been exposed to loud sounds. In other cases it's chronic, causing ongoing problems. Tinnitus isn't dangerous, but it can make daily tasks, like sleeping and concentrating, difficult.

What’s the cause of tinnitus?

The exact cause of tinnitus is often unknown. It can be caused by multiple conditions such as hearing loss, noise exposure, vascular abnormalities, viral illnesses, ear fluid, stress, anxiety and even jaw disorders.

How can tinnitus be fixed?

Unfortunately, there's no actual cure for tinnitus. That said, if an underlying condition is causing the tinnitus, treating those conditions helps stop the noise. Fortunately, in most cases, patients adapt to the sound and it becomes “neutral” no longer a problem. After a while it is not perceived unless the patient actively tries to hear it. Even people with the most severe forms of tinnitus find, that at times, when they are distracted they do not “hear it”.This is especially true for tinnitus from stress. Learning to reduce stress greatly reduces the effects of tinnitus. Medications to treat underlying problems like anxiety also help reduce tinnitus symptoms. Otherwise, management strategies and lifestyle changes may help. In the rare, severe cases where tinnitus affects sleep and daily functioning, other techniques are available including tinnitus desensitization therapy, special devices that can mask or inhibit the sound and cognitive behavioral therapy.

What tests can be performed for tinnitus?

For patients struggling with tinnitus, Dr. Astrachan or Dr. Hecht gathers a thorough health history. Patients may have a hearing test (audiogram), a more advanced test call a Brain Stem Evoked Response Test, CT scan, or an MRI, depending on the various symptoms they're experiencing. These tests rule out serious conditions that could be causing the tinnitus.

Can tinnitus be prevented?

Protecting a person's hearing can help reduce their risk of developing tinnitus. Avoid cleaning the ears with a cotton swab, which can impact earwax in the ear canal and increase the risk of tinnitus. Use ear protection when around loud or continuous noises, like at work, sporting events, or concerts. Maintain a healthy weight and monitor your blood pressure to help reduce the risk of tinnitus. For any further questions about protecting hearing, contact Ear Nose and Throat Specialists of Connecticut.

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