When to see a doctor for ringing in your ears
Mar 23, 2019
By Mark Shaver, PhD, Director of Audiology
The term “tinnitus” refers to sounds that are both heard and originate in the head or ears, but are not caused by environmental sounds. These sounds are often described as “buzzing”, “ringing”, or “roaring” and can change in loudness or character over the course of the day or over longer time periods.Dr. Mark Shaver
Prevalence of tinnitus is very common as it affects 10 to 15 percent of adults. Typically tinnitus will not have an identifiable cause, but when it does it can often be attributed to earwax impaction, ear disease, head injury, vascular issues, or medications.
Only about 20 percent of those who experience tinnitus seek treatment. This is in part because only 7 percent of those who experience it feel it is a “big” or “very big” problem. It may also be that patients do not know there can be benefits to having it checked. For example, many individuals with tinnitus also have hearing loss but do not realize it. Hearing loss can often be effectively treated with hearing aids which have the added benefit of decreasing the bothersome effects of tinnitus.
Below are some tips on when to have your tinnitus evaluated and by whom.
- For spontaneous onset tinnitus that occurs in only one ear and for less than a minute before going away, you should not be concerned about this. It is a normal occurrence in the population at large and does not require medical attention.
- However, if that tinnitus in one ear does not seem to get better within a day or two, then you should see an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician and get your hearing evaluated by an audiologist. This is especially true if you notice associated hearing loss or dizziness. When the onset is sudden and in one ear, you should try to get in ASAP. When scheduling an appointment make sure to let the receptionist know that the onset was sudden and recent as they will often be able to get you in sooner.
- If you experience tinnitus that begins in one or both ears that lasts for minutes to days because of exposure to loud sounds, think of this as your body warning you that you are putting yourself at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. The best way to manage this is to reduce your exposure by wearing well-fitting hearing protection when in those environments.****
- If you experience tinnitus that has been present for more than six months in both ears you should ask yourself if it is affecting your quality of life. Is it interfering with your sleep, work, or relationships? Is it causing you significant anxiety or making you feel depressed? If any of those things are true then have your hearing checked by an audiologist.
If you have questions about your hearing, or to schedule an appointment, please contact William Newton Hospital Audiology, located at the Winfield Healthcare Center, at 620-222-6256.
Editor's Note: Dr. Shaver joined William Newton Hospital in March of 2018 and is licensed as both an audiologist and hearing aid dispenser. He has worked in university, ENT clinic, and VA hospital settings. His clinical interests include hearing aid technology, tinnitus assessment and management, and hearing conservation. If you have comments or story ideas, call 620-221-2300, ext. 1113.
The "Weekend Check-Up" is a regular health column published in the Cowley Courier Traveler penned by employees and friends of William Newton Hospital.
Mark Shaver, PhDAudiologist
Posted in Weekend Check-Up Column on Mar 23, 2019