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Tinnitus (American pronunciation is TI-ni-tus, European pronunciation is tin-I-tus) Is often identified as a ringing or buzzing in the ears. It can also be identified as a clicking, humming, roaring, chirping, or sizzling sound. Tinnitus may be constant, intermittent, pulsing, fluctuating, loud, soft or even a combination of sounds. The reason the definition of Tinnitus is so broad is that Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease, and it has a variety of causes that may come from anywhere in the hearing mechanism. This not only makes it difficult to identify but also difficult to treat.

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Tinnitus is a very common experience for over +100 million adults. The difference will be to what degree is the annoyance from Tinnitus. There are several questionaries available on-line like the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory Questionnaire or the Tinnitus Annoyance Scale that you can complete prior to your Audiology visit to focus your thoughts about your reaction to the tinnitus. This information will help your Audiologist and Physician understand the degree of annoyance and provide clues to identify underlying problems.

Because hearing loss is the #1 contributor to tinnitus, an important step to a tinnitus diagnosis will be a thorough hearing assessment. This assessment should include a medical history, visual inspection, middle ear pressure test, and an audiometric evaluation. Results may help identify or rule out underlying pathology. Call AVA Hearing Center to schedule your initial baseline assessment.

Some common causes of tinnitus are listed below:

Hearing Loss: The primary cause for tinnitus is damage in the cochlea. This damage can occur through aging, noise exposure, genetic tendency, or toxins. This tinnitus is often described as a high pitch ringing.

Medications: Many medications report “tinnitus” as a common side effect. Your pharmacist can provide you with a list of known side effects for your medications or they may be able to counsel you as to the effects of drug interactions if you take multiple prescriptions.

Blood flow and/or tumors: Tinnitus that is reported throbbing or pulsating may be due to blood flow through arteries and veins in the ear. The tympanic membrane is highly vascular. When there is pressure behind the eardrum many people will report a soft hissing or pulsating. Tumors may also be vascular, meaning that they have increased blood flow within them. Tumors can grow anywhere in the auditory mechanism from the tympanic membrane or middle ear space to the neural pathways in the brain. Hearing loss may accompany these types of tinnitus.

Muscle spasms: Tinnitus that is described as clicking or fluttering may be due to muscle spasms. A spasm in the muscle along the roof of the mouth causes the Eustachian tube, which helps equalize pressure in the ears, to repeatedly open and close. The smallest muscle in the body is located in the ear. A spasm in the tensor tympani may cause a “fluttering” sensation. Multiple sclerosis and other neurologic diseases that are associated with muscle spasms may also be a cause of tinnitus, as they may lead to spasms of certain muscles in the middle ear that can cause repetitive clicking.

Earwax and Temporomandibular joint (TMJ): abnormalities may cause a repeated clicking or thumping. Ear wax in the ear canal can also cause a crackling or other sound based on the position and fullness in the canal.