Treatment Of Objective Or Subjective Tinnitus: Know The Difference

Tinnitus appears when a person begins to hear sounds not produced outside of the body. Most people report that they hear a “whoosh” or a ringing sound in one or both ears. The word, in fact, comes from the Latin “tinniere”, which means “to ring”.

Tinnitus occurs in two forms: objective and subjective. In objective cases, the patient hears a sound produced within the body. The sound, in fact, can be detected with a microphone placed in the patient’s ear. Objective tinnitus usually has a vascular or muscular cause. Pulsatile tinnitus is often diagnosed as objective tinnitus.

Sometimes, diseased blood vessels near the ear register a sound. This often happens in cases of hypertension or arteriosclerosis. New blood vessels that grow near the ear, such as those that supply a tumor, also produce sound.

Muscle spasms near the ear may also produce sound. For example, ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, destroys the nerves that lead to muscles. As they atrophy, the patient may experience small muscle tremors. When this occurs near the ear, the patient can perceive the sound. In both cases, the noise in the ears is often a hallmark of a more serious ailment.

The subjective form of the disease is far more common. The body, in subjective tinnitus, does not produce the sounds that a patient hears. Some causes include hormonal changes, head trauma, and certain drugs. The disease often piggybacks upon sensorineural hearing loss.

Meniere’s Disease also can cause the subjective form. Ringing in the ears, in this case, is produced by a reservoir of pressure and fluid in the cochlea. The ring is often accompanied by a sensation of fullness, or water in the ears.

Benign tumors can also be subjective tinnitus causes. Tumors growing near the auditory nerve can pinch the nerve. This sends false electrical signals to the brain, and the signals are perceived as sound.

There are multiple treatments available for both objective and subjective cases. For objective, treating the problem that caused the sound often makes it disappear. Other treatments include a neurostimulator, a Teflon implant, or surgery.

There are also many treatments for subjective cases. They include removal of earwax, electrical stimulation, medication, vitamins, psychotherapy, and, again, surgery. Another treatment involves using low-volume external sound, like white noise or quiet music.

Subjective tinnitus can often be prevented. Using earplugs in a loud location, such as an industrial factory or during a concert, can help prevent damage to the hearing. Earplugs can also be worn when using a loud appliance, such as a hair dryer, near the ears. When using loud equipment, like a lawn mower, earmuffs are a good option.

Headphones or ear buds can also be sources of irritation. Music volume should be minimal because the sound has nowhere to go but into the ears. For DJs and musicians, there are special headphones available that play music at a lower volume without causing sound distortion.

One in five Americans will suffer from tinnitus during his or her lifetime. Because environmental factors usually contribute to at least the subjective form of the disease, prevention provides the best chance of avoiding an annoying and harmful disease.

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