Tinnitus is commonly defined as the subjective perception of sound by an individual, in the absence of external sounds.
Tinnitus may be caused by different parts of the hearing system. At times it may be caused by excessive ear wax, especially if the wax touches the ear drum, causing pressure and changing how the ear drum vibrates. Other times, loose hair from the ear canal may come in contact with the ear drum and cause tinnitus.
Middle ear problems can also cause tinnitus, such as a middle ear infection or the buildup of new bony tissue around one of the middle ear bones which stiffens the middle ear transmission system (otosclerosis). Another cause of tinnitus from the middle ear may be muscle spasms of one of the two tiny muscles attached to middle ear bones. In this case, the tinnitus can be intermittent and at times, the examiner can also hear the patient’s sounds.
Most subjective tinnitus associated with the hearing system originates in the inner ear. Damage and loss of the tiny sensory hair cells in the inner ear (that can be caused by different factors) may be commonly associated with the presence of tinnitus. It is interesting to note that the pitch of the tinnitus often coincides with the area of the maximal hearing loss.
So what does an individual do to treat tinnitus?
“Although, in most cases, there may not be a ‘cure’ for tinnitus, we can help with the management and reactions to it,” says Nicole Auxier, AuD, CCC-A, an Agnesian HealthCare audiologist at the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic South. “If you, a loved one or friend experience tinnitus, call the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic’s Ear, Nose and Throat and Audiology Department for evaluation and management.”