Do You Have Pulsatile Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is nothing if not annoying. Fortunately, in an of itself, that bothersome ringing in the ears or head noise will not cause the sufferer to go deaf, but it can be the symptom of some other conditions or it could be a sign of hearing loss due to aging.
The condition of tinnitus can be the result of a number of physical causes, including blood pulsing in the jugular vein or carotid artery or other blood vessels near the ear. This type of rhythmic noise, known as pulsatile tinnitus, sounds off in time to the beat of the heart and can be checked by taking the pulse to see if the two coincide.
Other structural conditions that cause tinnitus are damaged or broken hairs on the auditory cells, problems with the temporomandibular joint in front of the ears, or issues with the sound processing pathways of the brain. The true cause of tinnitus, however, is difficult and sometimes impossible to ascertain, though the cause of pulsatile tinnitus has a much better chance of being traced.
Some of the typical causes for the head noises, which could include a whistling or rushing sound or even something like the tweeting of birds or running machinery, could include age-related loss of hearing, ear bone changes, exposure to loud noises, and even ear wax buildup.
Tinnitus also can be an indicator of Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear involving abnormal fluid pressure. It could indicate problems with the alignment of that joint in front of the ears. It could also be a result of a head or neck injury or the growth of a benign tumor on the cranial nerve that run to the inner ear, a condition known as acoustic neuroma.
Tinnitus also could be a sign of high blood pressure or a malformation of the blood vessels. It could be a result of atherosclerosis, or the build up of cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels near the inner and middle ears. With age, these vessels also lose their ability to expand and flex with each heartbeat, so the flow of blood becomes more forceful and easier to detect. This type of tinnitus will appear in both ears.
Medications also can cause tinnitus. Known culprits include aspirin in high doses, some cancer medications and antibiotics, diuretics, quinine for malaria, and certain antidepressants.
The lone symptom of tinnitus is its definition: hearing a sound when there is nothing around that would make that sound. The phantom noises can vary in pitch from a dull roar to a high screech and may be heard in both ears or just in one. The noise could be complex, such as the running machinery sound, or it could be as simple as an annoying clicking or hissing. It may be a constant unwanted companion, or it could come and go. Some patients report that at times the sound can be so loud, it drowns out actual noises around them.
Usually, you are the only one who can hear the noise, though there is a rare form of tinnitus that can be detected during a doctor’s examination. These rare types are caused by muscle contractions, a blood vessel problem, or an inner ear issue.
Health experts suggest going to a doctor if the noise is bothering you. You should make an appointment, though, if your develop tinnitus after having the flu, cold, or some other upper respiratory ailment and it does not go away in a week or so. Also, see a doctor if the tinnitus appears suddenly or it is accompanied by any dizziness or hearing loss.
Treating tinnitus begins with tracking down the immediate cause and to treat that condition, if possible. This could be as simple as removing excess earwax. Surgery can get in the picture if its is needed to treat a blood vessel problem, but most can be helped with medication. Then again, medication could be causing the tinnitus, so switching medications may switch off the sound.
If an underlying cause cannot be found and treated, there are a number of methods available to reduce the annoyance factor. White noise machines are one avenue. These will mask the noise by imitating sounds from nature like rain or a waterfall, but fans and even leaving a TV on low can also help. Masking devices are similar, but are worn in the ear like a hearing aid. Another method to fight noise with noise include actual hearing aids, which have an added benefit if the tinnitus comes as a result of a hearing loss.
Some lifestyle changes can help the tinnitus sufferer cope with the ringing. The first step would be to avoid irritants that seem to make the tinnitus worse. These could include nicotine, caffeine, and loud noises. Lowering your stress level with relaxation therapy, meditation, exercise, biofeedback is another method that helps some sufferers. Drinking less alcohol is another possibility, given that the substance will dilate the blood vessels, particularly around the ears, and increase the blood flow.