Tinnitus, a condition characterized by a constant ringing, buzzing, pulsing, clicking, whooshing or clicking in the ears, isn’t just annoying, it’s damaging to your emotional wellbeing.

In fact, it is annoying for many individuals worldwide: according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), 2.8 billion people across the globe are affected by tinnitus. ASHA reports that half of the general population have been affected by tinnitus at some point in their lives. Additionally, the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) estimates 50 million people in the United States has tinnitus, with two million of those cases characterized as debilitating.

Causes of tinnitus

Tinnitus isn’t a health issue in of itself; rather, it is a symptom of some underlying health condition. Often times, tinnitus occurs with hearing loss. According to the ATA, other causes include:

  • Obstructions in the middle ear, such as earwax, head congestion or dirt/foreign objects
  • Head or neck trauma
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
  • Sinus pressure and barometric trauma
  • Tramautic brain injury
  • Ototoxic medication, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, some antibiotics, certain cancer medications, water pills and diuretics and quinine-based medications

Consequences of tinnitus

Living with undiagnosed or untreated tinnitus can be difficult. According to ASHA, people with tinnitus report feeling withdrawn, helpless, sad, scared, unfocused, stressed, irritable, anxious, depressed, nervous, angry, tense or fatigued. Work and social situations, along with maintaining relationships can be difficult. If you are concerned you may be suffering from tinnitus, there are a number of treatment options available if you schedule an appointment with an audiologist in your area.

Tinnitus treatment options

Because there are so many underlying health conditions that can cause tinnitus, treatment can be difficult. Treatment options will depend heavily on the primary issue causing the tinnitus. Some management options include:

  • Hearing aids
  • Sound therapies
  • Behavioral therapies
  • Drug therapies
  • TMJ treatments
  • Experimental treatments

To find the right tinnitus management for you, it is important to visit an audiologist. They will utilize testing, medical background and the personal information you provide to determine the cause of your tinnitus and the best treatment option.

If you have never seen an audiologist before, consider asking your primary care physician or doctor’s office for a recommendation. Other resources for finding audiologists include your insurance, friends, family or online reviews.