Is tinnitus an ear or brain problem?
Although we hear tinnitus in our ears, its source is really in the networks of brain cells (what scientists call neural circuits) that make sense of the sounds our ears hear. A way to think about tinnitus is that it often begins in the ear, but it continues in the brain.
- try to relax – deep breathing or yoga may help.
- try to find ways to improve your sleep, such as sticking to a bedtime routine or cutting down on caffeine.
- try to avoid things that can make tinnitus worse, such as stress or loud background noises.
Neurologic causes include head injury, whiplash, multiple sclerosis, vestibular schwannoma (commonly called an acoustic neuroma), and other cerebellopontine-angle tumors.
It's not clear exactly why it happens, but it often occurs along with some degree of hearing loss. Tinnitus is often associated with: age-related hearing loss. inner ear damage caused by repeated exposure to loud noises.
Visit your primary care provider (PCP) and audiologist
if your tinnitus continues beyond a week, becomes bothersome, starts to interfere with your sleep and/or your concentration, or makes you depressed or anxious, seek medical attention from a trained healthcare professional.
An MRI scan may reveal a growth or tumor near the ear or the eighth cranial nerve that could be causing tinnitus. Imaging tests can also help doctors evaluate pulsatile tinnitus. They can show changes in the blood vessels near the ears and determine whether an underlying medical condition is causing symptoms.
If one has something in their environment that sounds like their tinnitus, the brain has a source to attribute to the sound and is able to become more relaxed. There are many ways to implement sound therapy. Common at-home methods can include turning a fan on, listening to music or the tv.
- Anesthetic medications, such as lidocaine.
- Antihistamines, such as meclizine.
- Those for abnormal heart rhythms, such as flecainide.
- Anti-seizure medications, like carbamazepine (Tegretol), gabapentin (Neurontin), or phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek)
There is no cure for tinnitus, and many people like Anna suffer for years. Tinnitus is not its own condition but rather a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as hearing loss from age or noise exposure, Meniere's disease, high blood pressure or other disease of the ear related to medications.
Tinnitus is a symptom of traumatic brain injury that can be caused by a variety of factors. Therefore, proper treatment for tinnitus depends on the root/underlying cause.
Is tinnitus caused by something in the brain?
Your brain interprets these signals as sound. If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken — this happens as you age or when you are regularly exposed to loud sounds — they can "leak" random electrical impulses to your brain, causing tinnitus.
Although severe tinnitus can interfere with your hearing, the condition does not cause hearing loss. Tinnitus is a symptom associated with many ear disorders. A common cause of tinnitus is inner ear damage. Tiny, delicate hairs in your inner ear move with the pressure of sound waves.
There's no known cure for tinnitus. Current treatments generally involve masking the sound or learning to ignore it.