The perception of a sound or noise, felt in the head or ear, several times a day: it is tinnitus, a disturbance of the ear, capable of affecting – even in an important way in some cases – the quality of daily life. We talk about it with Dr. Luca Malvezzi, Otolaryngologist in Humanitas.
Commonly speaking, tinnitus occurs with a buzzing in the ears, which can take on different tonalities and therefore be similar to a whistle, hissing, rhombus, breeze or crackling. Tinnitus can also have a constant or intermittent character. It particularly affects adults, rarely children, and their continuous and intense presence can promote the appearance of a depressive syndrome.
The causes at their origin
Exposure to intense noise, infections, traumas and certain diseases are the most common causes of tinnitus.
Noises that are intense and frequent can damage the hearing system, with hearing loss, distortion in the perception of sounds and alterations that lead to unwanted sounds. It is thought that 90% of patients with tinnitus also have a decrease in hearing.
In the presence of inflammation of the ear (middle otitis) or of the nose and paranasal sinuses (rhinitis and rhinosinusitis) a temporary perception of tinnitus with low hues may occur, similar to the sound of the sea that is perceived by leaning a shell on the ear.
Head and neck injuries can be responsible for reversible tinnitus, accompanied by headaches, memory loss and dizziness. Misalignment of the jaw joint may also affect the hearing system and cause tinnitus.
Finally, tinnitus may also occur in patients with thyroid disease or fibromyalgia.
It is important to consult your doctor
In the presence of tinnitus it is always advisable to consult a doctor. The specialist visit to the otorhinolaryngology with audiometric examinations is essential to understand whether additional examinations are necessary, such as electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, blood vessel Doppler, evaluation in a thrombosis center or imaging and magnetic resonance.
Advice to fight it
A specialist evaluation will be an opportunity for the patient to get the best advice to counteract the presence of tinnitus.
In general, taking medications may help: antidepressants (such as tricyclics), antihypertensives or even drugs for the treatment of otitis can alleviate perceived discomfort.
In the presence of associated hearing loss, the patient can also benefit from the use of a hearing aid, which amplifies the incoming sounds and improves hearing perception by masking the noise associated with tinnitus.
It is also possible to use generators or sound masks, such as special devices that produce “white noises” or natural sounds, such as wind or sea waves, with the aim of relaxing the subject and diverting attention from the tinnitus.