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Possible Factors That Cause Subjective Tinnitus


Sketch of a person clutching their ears due to the discomfort of ringing noise.

Subjective tinnitus is a disturbance that causes a person to perceive a sound, often described as buzzing or ringing without any external sound source.


Although it is a phenomenon that can cause considerable concern or distress, it is important to understand what the causes are and how they can be treated.


What is Subjective Tinnitus?


Subjective tinnitus is a condition that causes the sensation of sound in the ears or head without any external source. It can be continuous or intermittent, steady or pulsating, and is often described as humming, hissing, ringing, or even the sound of wind or water.


How Do We Recognize Subjective Tinnitus?


Tinnitus is a personal experience and therefore cannot be detected or measured by conventional medical techniques. Often, the identification of subjective tinnitus is based on the person's description. Audiologists or otolaryngologists can help identify tinnitus and evaluate your hearing to see if there are associated hearing problems.


a tablet screen showing the word Tinnitus

How is Subjective Tinnitus Treated?


Treatment for subjective tinnitus depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, treating the cause, such as stabilizing blood pressure or stopping a medication, can reduce or eliminate tinnitus.


For cases where the cause cannot be discovered or treated, tinnitus management methods include techniques such as noise therapy (sounds or music that cover or "mask" the sound of the tinnitus), using hearing aids to improve hearing, as well as psychological support to deal with the anxiety or worry that tinnitus can cause.


Also, certain lifestyle modifications can be extremely helpful. Avoiding excessive sound exposure, reducing stress, exercising and eating healthy can contribute significantly to alleviating symptoms.


Drugs and side effects


There are many medications that can cause tinnitus as an unpleasant side effect. These drugs are known as "ototoxics" and can damage the otic nerves or hair cells in the inner ear, causing tinnitus.


Some medications that can cause tinnitus include:

  • Certain antibiotics, such as aminoglycosides (including gentamicin, neomycin, and streptomycin).

  • Chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin and carboplatin.

  • Certain heart medications, such as furosemide and diuretics that have been broken down.

  • Malaria medicines, such as quinine.

  • Certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and related substances.

If you experience tinnitus and are taking any of these medications, it is important to talk to your doctor.



ginkgo biloba helping on tinnitus


Possible adjunctive treatments


Certain herbs and natural supplements have been reported as possible adjunctive treatments for tinnitus. While scientific research has yet to clearly prove the effectiveness of these natural approaches, some people find relief with them. Here are some possible options:


Ginkgo biloba: This herb is believed to improve blood circulation in the brain and may help reduce tinnitus.


Valerian tea: This herb can help relieve stress and anxiety, which can make tinnitus worse.


Chamomile Tea: Chamomile is known for its calming properties and can help promote relaxation and sleep.


Although these natural remedies may not directly address the cause of tinnitus, they can help.


Elder man being examined by an ent doctor


Surgery


The choice of surgery to treat subjective tinnitus depends on the cause of the problem. For example, if the tinnitus is caused by an acoustic neuroma, the tumor can be removed with surgery.

However, in most cases, there is no specific surgery that can treat subjective tinnitus. In fact, in some cases, surgery can make the condition worse.


What is an acoustic neuroma


Auditory neurinoma, also known as schwannoma of the auditory nerve, is a benign tumor that develops in the neuron that connects the inner ear to the brain. These tumors usually grow very slowly and are rare.


Symptoms that may occur with the development of an acoustic neuroma include:


  • Hearing loss in one ear, often the first indication.

  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ear.

  • Disorientation or loss of balance (dizziness).


In cases where the tumor has significantly increased in size, it can cause more serious symptoms such as ear pain, facial paralysis, or problems swallowing.


If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor. The doctor may refer you for further diagnostic tests, such as audiological tests, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to confirm the presence of an auditory neurinoma.



Concerned woman with hearing loss holding her ear, indicating difficulty in hearing.

Is hearing loss associated with subjective tinnitus?


No, it is not necessary for someone who has subjective tinnitus to also have hearing loss. Tinnitus is a condition characterized by the sensation of sound (usually buzzing, whistling or noise) in the ears or head without an external source.


Tinnitus can be associated with many different health issues, including hearing loss due to aging, middle ear problems (such as otitis or a perforated eardrum), excessive exposure to noise, and certain diseases such as Meniere's, acoustic neuroma, diseases of the cardiovascular system and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

While tinnitus and hearing loss can occur at the same time, the two conditions are not mutually exclusive.


Can Subjective Tinnitus Disappear on Its Own?


Yes, there are cases of people who have improved or even overcome subjective tinnitus. However, this may depend on a number of factors, including the cause of the tinnitus, the duration and severity of symptoms, and individual response to treatment.


In some cases, tinnitus may decrease or disappear if the cause is treated, such as noise exposure, use of certain medications, or ear diseases.


In other cases, the use of special hearing aids, noise management techniques, psychotherapy or relaxation methods can help people manage and reduce the experience of tinnitus.


It is important to remember that response to treatment is highly individual and success can vary greatly from person to person.






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