Tinnitus is the term used to describe the condition of having ringing, buzzing, or noise in the ear or originating from the head. The word tinnitus is Latin and literally means ringing. Tinnitus can be caused by many things, and is usually a symptom of an underlying condition. The treatment for your particular tinnitus will depend on the condition that is causing it, the severity, any accompanying issues such as hearing loss, and the impact the tinnitus has on daily activities.
Common causes of tinnitus include: stress and depression, hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, earwax buildup or blockages, abnormal bone growth in the ear, Meniere's disease, head or neck injuries, or benign tumor of the cranial nerve.
In order to find out the root cause of your tinnitus, your physician or audiologist will conduct a complete medical history, as well as a complete examination.
Depending on the cause of your tinnitus and other factors, several options are available. If a hearing loss is present that requires hearing aids, these devices alone may help diminish the tinnitus since they help you to hear everyday sounds and may change the contrasting loudness of the tinnitus. It may help your brain focus on other sounds rather than the tinnitus. Many hearing devices have a sound generator in them that provide you a different sound to hear in order to help take your focus away from the tinnitus and lessen the impact of the tinnitus. Sometimes a patient may need to be referred for more specialized therapy called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) which attempts to retrain your brain into perceiving the tinnitus in a different way.
About 75% of people with tinnitus are not bothered by it because their brains process it and file it as another everyday noise. TRT tries to teach your brain how to process the noise so that it doesn't bother you anymore (or not as much). At this time, no medications have been approved specifically for the treatment of tinnitus.
Your physician or audiologist will also be able to refer you to psychological treatment or support, as tinnitus can be life-changing and hard to deal with, especially when it is a chronic problem. A tinnitus support group may also be of help.
After treatment has taken place, further maintenance is important. This may include management of associated health problems or ongoing therapies to support health and manage tinnitus.