The buzzing in your ear keeps getting worse. It started off quiet enough–one of those “is it really there” sort of things. But after spending all day at the construction site (for work), you’ve noticed just how loud (and how relentless) that buzzing has become. Sometimes it sounds like ringing or other noises. You’re considering seeing a hearing specialist, but you’re wondering: how is buzzing in the ears treated?
The treatment of tinnitus (that’s what that buzzing is called) will vary from person to person and depend significantly on the origin of your hearing issues. But there are some common threads that can help you prepare for your own tinnitus treatment.
What Kind of Tinnitus Do You Have?
Tinnitus is incredibly common. According to one study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 50 million Americans have experienced tinnitus symptoms. The ringing or buzzing (or any number of sounds) in your ear can be caused by a variety of underlying issues. So when it comes to treatment, tinnitus is usually divided into one of two categories:
- Medical Tinnitus: Some tinnitus symptoms are caused by an underlying medical issue, such as an ear infection, excessive earwax, or a growth, among other conditions. Medical professionals will typically attempt to treat the underlying issue as their primary priority.
- Non-Medical Tinnitus: “Non-medical” nomenclature is usually reserved for tinnitus caused by hearing damage or hearing loss. Over time, exposure to damaging noise (such as the noise at your construction site) can cause persistent, severe, and chronic tinnitus. Non-medical tinnitus is often more challenging to treat.
The type of tinnitus you have–and the root cause of the hearing ailment–will determine the best ways to treat those symptoms.
Treatments for Medical Tinnitus
If your tinnitus is caused by an underlying medical condition, it’s likely that treating your original illness or ailment will relieve the ringing in your ears. Treatments for medical tinnitus may include:
- Antibiotics: If your tinnitus is caused by an ear infection (that is, a bacterial ear infection), your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Once the infection clears up, it’s likely that your hearing will return to normal.
- Hydrocortisone: Certain types of infections will not respond to antibiotics. (Viral infections, for example, never respond to antibiotic treatments). In these cases, your doctor may prescribe hydrocortisone to help you control other symptoms.
- Surgery: When your tinnitus is caused by a tumor or other growth, doctors may perform surgery to remove the mass that is causing your tinnitus, especially if your symptoms are diminishing your quality of life.
If your tinnitus is caused by a medical issue, you’ll want to see a doctor to receive personalized treatment options.
Treatments for Non-Medical Tinnitus
The causes of non-medical tinnitus are often much harder to detect and treat than is typically the case with medical tinnitus. There is usually no cure for non-medical tinnitus (especially in cases where the tinnitus is caused by hearing damage). Treatments, instead, focuses on alleviating symptoms and improving the quality of life.
- Noise-masking devices: Sometimes called “white noise machines,” these devices are designed to provide enough sound to minimize your ability to hear the buzzing or ringing caused by your tinnitus. These devices can be attenuated to produce specific sounds designed to offset your tinnitus symptoms.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: In some cases, you can be trained to ignore the sound of your tinnitus. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a widely used method designed to help you achieve just that.
- Hearing aids: If your tinnitus becomes more prominent as your hearing wanes, a hearing aid can help you control the symptoms of both conditions. The tinnitus probably seems louder because everything else gets quieter (due to hearing loss). A hearing aid can help mask the sound of your tinnitus by amping up the volume of everything else.
- Medications: There are some experimental medications available for treating tinnitus. For example, steroids and anti-anxiety medication combinations can sometimes help minimize tinnitus symptoms. However, you’ll want to talk to a hearing specialist before making any decisions about medications.
Find What Works
For most of us, it won’t be immediately clear what’s causing our tinnitus, so it’s likely you’ll have to attempt multiple strategies in order to successfully treat your own hearing issues. Depending on the source of your buzzing or ringing, there may not be a cure for your tinnitus. But there are many treatments available. The trick is finding the one that works for you.