Tinnitus: What’s the BUZZ? 

by Dr. Clint Keifer, FLT Columnist

      Most people have experienced it at some point — if only very briefly from time to time. We even make light of it by saying “someone must be talking about me.”

But for millions of Americans, “ringing in the ears” can be quite debilitating when these internal head noises never stop.

Tinnitus — pronounced TIN-uh-tis or tin-NITE-us — is the perception of head or ear sounds in the absence of corresponding external sounds. Tinnitus affects 1 in 5 people and symptoms vary greatly among individuals in relation to loudness, pitch, quality (“buzz” versus “ring”) and how often it occurs.

While the cause of tinnitus cannot always be determined, we do know that it is likely to accompany hearing loss and can be an early effect of noise damage. Think about the ringing and muffled hearing many experience after leaving a loud concert — a sign of damage!

Other causes include:

  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Medication/drugs
  • Underlying neurological disorders
  • Ear infection/inflammation
  • Earwax blockage
  • Vascular disorder
  • Tumor (rare)
  • Other auditory abnormalities
  • TMJ
  • Head/neck injury

Although many people gradually adjust to their tinnitus, the effects of tinnitus can be quite debilitating for others, leading to poor sleep, anxiety, frustration, feelings of distress and helplessness, depression, and even suicidal tendencies.

Making matters worse, many doctors are unaware of the resources and treatments available to help manage this problem and instead frequently tell people “you just have to live with it.”

Obtaining proper audiologic evaluation for hearing and tinnitus is the sensible first step. This helps identify causes and potential treatment options, allows for initial counseling and education, and determines the need for further evaluation or referral to other health professionals.

In addition, our local Toledo Tinnitus Support Group was established in partnership with the American Tinnitus Association and Great Lakes Audiology to provide our community better access to resources and support for those dealing with tinnitus.

We definitely DO NOT “just have to live with it.”

Dr. Clint Keifer is the owner of Great Lakes Audiology in Toledo. You can contact him at 419 327-2273; email at ckeifer@glaudiology.com; or visit http://www.glaudiology.com/.