Tinnitus is a sensation or awareness of sound that is not caused by a real external sound source that is often described as ringing in the ears.
If you think you have tinnitus, you might be curious to know: How do you test for tinnitus?
In this article, I will cover some important information about tinnitus, including how to test for tinnitus.
So, let’s get into it.
What Conditions Can Lead to Tinnitus?
There are a variety of conditions that can lead to tinnitus. These include but are not limited to:
- A middle ear infection
- Age-related hearing loss
- Head and neck injuries, including whiplash
- A benign tumour on the auditory nerve
- Noise-induced hearing loss
How is Tinnitus Diagnosed?
Tinnitus can take a variety of forms, including ringing, hissing, whooshing, whistling, humming, or buzzing to name a few sounds.
If you suspect that you have tinnitus, to get a diagnosis, you will need to book a doctor’s appointment. The doctor or healthcare professional wil ask a series of questions about your tinnitus. Your doctor may ask specific questions about your concentration, how you’re sleeping, and your mood to gauge how the tinnitus is affecting you.
Your doctor will examine your ears, head and neck to look for possible causes of tinnitus. An ear exam is necessary to look inside the ear canal and see if the eardrum before they carry out tests.
How To Test for Tinnitus?
Aside from the questions stated above that your doctor is likely to ask you about your tinnitus, there are a few tests that will be carried out.
Tests for tinnitus can include:
A standard test for tinnitus is a hearing exam. During the exam, patients are typically asked to sit in a soundproof room wearing earphones while specific sounds are played into one ear at a time.
You will be asked to indicate when you can hear the sound that is played, and your results will be compared with results considered typical for your age.
If your ears feel blocked, your doctor may request a test called tympanometry which is a non-invasive test that measures the pressure inside the ears.
Your doctor may ask you to move your neck, clench your jaw, move your eyes, arms, and legs.
If your tinnitus changes or worsens, it may help identify an underlying disorder or other medical causes that need treatment.
Depending on the suspected cause of your tinnitus, the doctor might request to order an MRI scan, particularly if the tinnitus is one-sided or if the hearing test is asymmetrical.
The Sounds Associated with Tinnitus
The sounds that you can hear with tinnitus are varied, and they can also help your doctor to establish a possible underlying cause.
- High-pitched ringing – If you are exposed to a very loud sound or are hit in the ear, you can experience a high-pitched sound that usually goes away.
- Low-pitched ringing – Meniere’s disease could be a possible cause if you are hearing a low-pitched ringing sound.
- Rushing or humming – These sounds tend to be vascular in origin, which can cause the sounds to fluctuate when you stand or sit down.
- Clicking – If you’re hearing clicking sounds in short bursts, it could be down to muscle contractions in your ear.
- Heartbeat – If the sound of your heartbeat feels like it is amplified in your ears, this could be down to high blood pressure or other blood vessel problems.
However, it is important to note that there are circumstances where the cause of tinnitus isn’t found.
The tricky thing about tinnitus is that it is such a variable symptom. Your tinnitus can be considered temporary and go on it’s own.
However, in some cases, tinnitus can be chronic which therefore means that you will always have the symptom.
In this circumstance, you will need to find ways to manage your tinnitus long term. It can sometimes be tricky to make decisions regarding the management of your tinnitus. However, I recommend that you visit your doctor or healthcare provider for more information on how you can cope with tinnitus long term.
Ways to Manage Tinnitus
Your doctor might suggest a few methods to help you manage tinnitus. These include:
If you find that your tinnitus worsens when you are under a lot of stress, your doctor might suggest relaxation training as a method to cope.
Relaxation training often includes breathing exercises to help you remain present in the moment and focus your mind on something else.
Other relaxation training techniques involve meditation and visualisation exercises that are helpful at combating the frustrations you may feel to live with tinnitus.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses acceptance and mindfulness to be present with what life brings, which is useful when a person is trying to accept living with chronic tinnitus.
Acceptance and commitment therapy invites people to open up to unpleasant feelings, and learn not to overreact to them, and may allow you to move through your frustrations with tinnitus.
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has shown to be useful in the management of tinnitus.
While this doesn’t have an effect on improving the acoustic characteristic of tinnitus, it can improve the response to tinnitus.
For the small number of people with pulsatile tinnitus, your doctor might suggest a minimally invasive surgery to reduce or eliminate the tinnitus.
If you suspect that you have tinnitus, your doctor is likely to ask you a series of questions to determine how your tinnitus is affecting you and your life.
There are a variety of ways to test for tinnitus, including ear examinations, hearing exams, movement tests, and imaging tests.
If you feel like you’re struggling with your tinnitus diagnosis, always make sure that you seek help and get further advice from your doctor or healthcare professional.
There are people out there who can help and you’re not alone.