Do You Have Tinnitus?

An ENT Doctor May Be Able to Diagnose the Ringing in Your Ears


If you are experiencing ringing in your ears or hearing loss, then your hearing doctor in Los Angeles may be able to diagnose the cause and find a solution. Hearing loss is never welcome, and our team of Los Angeles ENT specialists is extensively trained in the operation of the inner and outer ear.

Do You Have Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the name given to the sound of ringing in your ears. This is often a shrill ringing, and others will not be able to hear it because it’s a condition within your ear. It most often occurs in those who are exposed to continuous loud noise, such as musicians, construction workers, and those who have served in the military.

Smoking and drinking increase the risk of tinnitus, as well as health conditions such as cardiovascular problems, obesity, and high blood pressure.

About 20% of adults have some level of hearing loss or ringing in their ears, and it doesn’t bother everyone. However, if you are someone who needs their hearing for work or if your ears have been causing you severe pain, you may want to visit a doctor for tinnitus.

You should definitely see a specialist if:

  • You develop the ringing and/or pain in your ears after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold
  • Your tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss or dizziness
  • Your tinnitus is causing you to experience anxiety or depression

When you visit our clinic, you will meet with an ENT for ear problems in Los Angeles, and they can diagnose your tinnitus in one of two ways:

  • Hearing exam: You will sit in a soundproof room wearing headphones that will play specific sounds into one ear at a time.  You should indicate when you hear a sound, and the doctors will compare your results with other subjects your age. This can help diagnose the cause of the ringing. There are several other auditory tests to measure the function of your inner ear, middle ear, and auditory pathway. After you take this initial test, your hearing doctor can suggest more if needed.
  • Movement: Simple bodily movements may make your tinnitus worse. Your hearing specialist in LA may ask you to clench your jaw or move your neck, arms, and legs. If your tinnitus worsens during these movements, then the ringing in your ears could be related to another disorder.

Symptoms of Tinnitus

Tinnitus is often described as a ringing in the ears when no external sound is present. Tinnitus is not always a high-pitched ringing, as it can also sound like:

  • Roaring
  • Buzzing
  • Humming
  • Clicking
  • Hissing

Tinnitus can occur in one or both ears, and it can sometimes be so bothersome that you have difficulty concentrating or hearing external sounds. This condition can be continuous, or it may come and go.

Causes of Tinnitus

Tinnitus has many causes that can be both internal and external, and the cause of your tinnitus will also determine its treatment.

  • Hearing loss: Cilia, the tiny hairs in your inner ear that transmit sound, can be bent or broken as you age or after you are exposed to loud noises. When this happens, they may leak electrical impulses to your brain, causing random noise.
  • Ear infection or canal blockage: A buildup of substance in your ear canals can cause tinnitus. These substances can be naturally generated, such as earwax, or foreign material such as sand or dirt. It’s also possible that the fluids generated from an ear infection are the cause of your condition.
  • Head or neck injuries: Let your doctor know if you’ve undergone any recent head or neck trauma, as it can impact the inner ear, hearing function, or brain function related to hearing.  If your tinnitus is related to a head or neck injury, then it likely only happens in one ear.
  • Medications: Some medications can worsen tinnitus. Generally, if your tinnitus worsens as you take a higher dose of these medications, then it’s the likely cause.
  • Meniere’s disease: This is an inner ear condition caused by abnormal inner ear fluid pressure. Tinnitus is an early indicator of this condition.
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction: The eustachian tube connects the middle ear to your upper throat, and if it’s remaining expanded, then it may cause ringing in your ears.
  • Ear bone changes: If you have an abnormal bone growth or stiffening of bones in your ear, then you may also experience tinnitus. This condition runs in families.
  • TMJ: If you have TMJ, it may be accompanied by tinnitus.

Treatment Options for Tinnitus

Your treatment options for tinnitus depend on the cause of your condition.

If an earwax buildup is the cause of your tinnitus, your ENT doctor in Los Angeles can easily clean out your ears. This can be by suctioning the earwax out with a curved instrument, or they will gently rinse your ear with warm water to clear out the buildup.

If an ear infection is causing your buildup, your doctor may write you a prescription for eardrops and an antibiotic to fight the infection.

In rare cases, you may need surgery if your tinnitus is the result of a tumor, cyst, cholesteatoma, or otosclerosis.

No matter the cause of your tinnitus, one of our board-certified doctors will find a solution to your discomfort so that you can get back to your normal life.

About Westside Head & Neck

The board-certified ENT doctors of Westside Head & Neck treat a variety of ear, nose, and throat conditions. Every doctor on the Westside Head & Neck team has extensive training in the treatment of:

  • Sinus issues
  • Allergy testing
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Chronic nosebleed
  • Post-nasal drop
  • Voice and swallowing disorders
  • Advanced head & neck surgical oncology
  • And more conditions found on our website

We accept most PPO insurance plans, Medicare, and select HMO’s to help as many Angelenos as possible find a solution their ear discomfort. To set up an appointment in either our Santa Monica or Culver City office, please call (310) 361-5128 or email appointments@westsidehn.com.

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How the Ear Works


The ear has three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear & the inner ear.

The outer ear, including the external auditory canal, (the part you can see) opens into the ear canal. The eardrum (tympanic membrane) separates the ear canal from the middle ear. The middle ear contains three small bones which help amplify and transfer sound to the inner ear. These three bones, or ossicles, are called the malleus (or hammer), the incus (or anvil), and the stapes (or stirrup). The inner ear contains the cochlea which changes sound into neurological signals and the auditory (hearing) nerve, which takes sound to the brain.Ear Anatomy

Do You Have Tinnitus?Any source of sound sends vibrations or sound waves into the air. These funnel through the ear opening, down the external ear canal, and strike your eardrum, causing it to vibrate. The vibrations are passed to the three small bones of the middle ear, which transmit them to the cochlea. The cochlea contains tubes filled with fluid. Inside one of the tubes, tiny hair cells pick up the vibrations and convert them into nerve impulses. These impulses are delivered to the brain via the hearing nerve. The brain interprets the impulses as sound (music, voice, a car horn, etc.).

Hearing & Ear Problems

  • Balance Disorder
  • Central Auditory Processing Disorder
  • Cholesteatoma
  • Chronic Ear Infections
  • Chronic Middle Ear Fluid
  • Dizziness: Lightheadedness & Vertigo
  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
  • Meniere’s Disease/ Endolymphatic hydrops
  • Earaches & Otitis Media
  • Ear wax/ Cerumen/ Glue Ear
  • Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
  • Exostosis/ Surfer’s ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Mastoiditis
  • Otosclerosis
  • Perforated Eardrum
  • Tinnitus
  • Vestibular neuritis/ Labyrinthitis

Treatments

  • Cerumen (ear wax) removal
  • Otoplasty Ear Correction Plastic Surgery
  • Mastoidectomy
  • Myringotomy with (Ventilating) Tubes
  • Stapedectomy
  • Tinnitus Evaluation and Retraining Therapy
  • Tympanomastoidectomy
  • Tympanoplasty
  • Vestibular Rehabilitation

Outer Ear Infections
Outer ear infections can cause itching in the ear canal, pain and swelling of the ear canal, discharge from the ear, and crusting around the ear canal. Your physician will carefully clean and dry your ear. If your ear is very swollen, the physician may insert a wick soaked with an antibiotic into the ear to get the medicine into the infected area. You may need to put drops in your ear several times a day to keep the wick moist. Oral antibiotics may also be indicated if you have a severe infection, or your physician may suggest a cream or ointment medicine for some types of infection.

Middle Ear Infections
A middle ear infection is an infection of the air-filled space in the ear behind the eardrum. Ear infections usually begin with a viral infection of the nose and throat. Ear infections may also occur when you have allergies. Symptoms of a middle ear infection include earache, hearing loss, feeling of blockage in the ear, fever, and dizziness. The physician will check for fluid behind the eardrum, and a hearing test may also be recommended if you are experiencing hearing loss. Antibiotic medicine is a common treatment for ear infections. However, recent studies have shown that the symptoms of ear infections often go away in a couple of days without antibiotics. Your provider may recommend a decongestant (tablets or a nasal spray) to help clear the eustachian tube.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
Benign Proxysmal Positional Vertigo is one of the most common causes of vertigo in adults. It presents with the illusion of movement, which occurs within a few seconds of a change in head positioning. Most commonly a short sensation of spinning is experienced after lying down in bed, arising in the morning, or rolling over in bed at night, but may also occur when one looks up to a high shelf, or down under furniture. Typically, the symptoms last seconds to minutes or so before resolving. BPPV is due to microscopic crystals, or otoconia, floating around in one of the compartments of the inner ear. The movement of these particles stimulate the sensory endings of the vestibular (balance) nerve, producing vertigo.

The good news is that BPPV responds well to physical therapy maneuvers. Medications rarely help. A trained physician or vestibular therapist can perform therapy which can rapidly eliminate the symptoms of dizziness. These maneuvers are designed to relocate the crystals to a part of the inner ear where they will not produce any symptoms. Treatments for BPPV can usually be performed in one or two sessions with very high success rates. This office frequently diagnosis and properly treats this disorder.

Meniere’s Disease
Meniere’s Disease is a problem in the inner ear. It can cause severe dizziness (vertigo) and hearing loss. It usually affects just one ear, but it can happen in both ears. There can be a significant hearing loss, but complete deafness is rare. The symptoms can be mild or severe. Although the dizziness can be very disabling, it can usually be controlled.

Earwax
Excessive amounts of earwax, or cerumen, can block the ear canal and cause temporary hearing impairment. Earwax should be removed only by a professional. Q-tips, ear candeling, or other methods of home earwax removal are not recommended. Please consult your physician if you suspect earwax impaction.

Labyrinthitis & Vestibular Neuritis
Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the inner ear. Vestibular neuritis is an inflammation of the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain. In vestibular neuritis, a virus similar to the herpes virus causes an infection. This infection causes swelling and inflammation of the vestibular nerves or the labyrinth. Sometimes bacteria from a middle ear infection cause labyrinthitis. Symptoms of vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis include dizziness or vertigo, trouble maintaining balance, and nausea. Diagnosis may include a hearing evaluation, balance testing, an MRI scan, and possible blood testing.

Otosclerosis
Otosclerosis is the abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear which can cause conductive hearing loss, or the prevention of the normal transmission of sound. It is most common for otosclerosis to affect one of the bones in the middle ear called the stapes. Other symptoms of otoscerlosis may include ringing in the ears and dizziness. Otosclerosis can be diagnosed by your ENT physician, and will include a hearing evaluation by an audiologist. Treatment may consist of a surgery called a stapedectomy, where a prosthetic device replaces the abnormal bone growth.

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is not normal, and can be a symptom of other disorders. Some of the causes of tinnitus are hearing loss, noise exposure, ear infections, sinus infections, Meniere’s disease, ear or head injury, otosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, certain medications, anxiety or stress, heavy smoking, and thyroid disorders. Tinnitus can be described as ringing, buzzing, crickets, escaping air, and many other types of sound. Your physician will ask about your symptoms and may order a hearing test, scans, or blood work to determine the possible cause. Treatment options may include a hearing aid or masking device, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), and perhaps certain medication.

Hearing Loss
Types of hearing loss: Hearing loss is categorized by what part of the auditory system is damaged. These fall into three categories: Conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, or mixed hearing loss.

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