Tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears that may manifest itself as ringing, buzzing, clicking, roaring or hissing. Though, usually not a serious medical problem, tinnitus can nonetheless be extremely intrusive, and impact the patient's quality of life. It is considered a symptom, caused by a variety of underlying conditions, such as a problem with the inner or middle ear.
Causes of tinnitus include exposure to loud noise; otosclerosis, or abnormal bone growth in the ear; damage to the hair cells of the inner ear; a disorder of the circulatory system; injury to the ear; excessive wax buildup in the ear; neurological dysfunction; or age-related hearing loss.
Tinnitus is diagnosed through tests including a physical examination and an audiological examination. During the physical examination, the abnormal noises that characterize tinnitus can be heard through a stethoscope or ear tube by the doctor. It is important that a proper diagnosis be made, not only so that the tinnitus can be treated successfully, but so that any serious underlying condition can be addressed as well.
Most individuals with tinnitus can be effectively treated, with the main focus on improving the patient's hearing. Treatments typically include wearing hearing aids, managing ear wax buildup and use of white noise devices that help mask the phantom noises associated with tinnitus.