Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears) (cont.)

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What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

  • The sound of tinnitus may be constant or it may come and go intermittently.
  • It may be throbbing.
  • It may occur in one ear or in both ears.
  • Most often, the sound is a high pitched continuous tone, but it may also be described by the patient as a click, buzz, or a hum.
  • Tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss and the patient may complain of decreased hearing, even if the tinnitus is absent.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

The patient's history and description of symptoms is the key in determining what might be causing tinnitus.

Your health-care professional will want to know the quality of the abnormal sound, and whether it is constantly present or if it comes and goes.

  • Does it involve one or both ears?
  • Does the sound pulsate, or does it sound like a rush or flow?
  • Does it click?
  • Has there there exposure to loud noises or sound at work, at home or at play?
  • Is there associated decreased hearing/hearing loss?

Each sound type may a give a clue as to the cause of tinnitus.

The patient's medications are often reviewed since tinnitus may be a side effect of many medications.

Physical examination usually focuseson the head and neck, including the ear canals and tympanic membranes. The cranial nerves are often examined to look for weakness in facial, mouth, and neck muscles or numbness in the face that might be associated with a tumor. Your health care professional may listen over the larger arteries in the neck trying to find an abnormal sound (bruit) that might be the cause of tinnitus.

An audiogram or hearing test may be performed to look for associated hearing loss. It may also note a change in hearing function between the ears that might offer a clue as to the cause.

Depending upon the situation, MRI scanning of the brain structures might be indicated, and consultations may be requested from a variety of specialists.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/9/2014

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