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Tinnitus Diagnosis

Tinnitus Diagnosis

If you experience problems with your hearing, such as ringing or buzzing sounds, you should speak to your doctor about a tinnitus diagnosis; especially if the noise is causing you ongoing distress and discomfort, or is accompanied by pain, hearing loss, vertigo or a combination of all of these.

What to Expect From a Tinnitus Diagnosis

The doctor will ask questions to establish the severity of your tinnitus symptoms. He/she will be interested in the frequency of the sounds you hear – is the sound continuous or does it come and go? He/she will want to know if one ear is affected or both. He/she will also likely inquire about whether the symptoms are impacting your daily life. He/she will want to know if you have been experiencing other symptoms on top of the ringing or buzzing sounds; such as pain, vertigo or hearing loss.

Your doctor will also be interested in any medication you are currently taking as antibiotics or aspirin since these have been known to cause the condition if taken in high doses. He/she will conduct a physical examination outside and inside the ear. This may show obvious problems that they can easily treat such as ear infection or buildup of earwax. Your diagnosis will also likely involve a standard hearing test.

He/She may also want to run blood tests to ensure your tinnitus is not being caused by a more serious underlying condition such as diabetes, anemia (low red blood cell count) or problems with your thyroid gland.

Some of the tests the doctor may use are as follows:

Audiological exam (hearing exam): This involves wearing a set of headphones which play a series of sounds into one ear at a time. The patient must signal when a sound is heard.

The results are then compared with those considered normal for someone in your age category. This is useful too in identifying and ruling out possible causes of tinnitus.

Simple Movements: You may be asked to perform a series of movements using your eyes, jaw, neck/head, legs, and arms. If any of these movements affect your tinnitus (make it better or worse) it may point to an underlying cause related to another part of the body.

Seeing a Tinnitus Specialist

If your doctor believes the tinnitus symptoms are severe he/she may refer you to a specialist who can conduct a more in-depth hearing diagnosis and prescribe the best treatment accordingly. Depending on the type and severity of your symptoms you could be referred to an audiologist (for an in-depth hearing test) and/or an ear nose test (ENT) specialist who will carry out more detailed tests.

On rare occasions, one might be referred for a CT or MRI scan that will allow specialists to closely examine the inner ear and brain.

Tinnitus Diagnosis Tips

Being as specific as possible about the type of sound you are hearing can be very helpful to the doctor diagnosing your symptoms and can help him/her to prescribe the most effective treatment for your particular condition. Various tinnitus sounds associated with possible underlying conditions include:

  • Ringing (high-pitched): This can be caused by exposure to loud noise (machinery, headphones, etc…) or trauma. It usually dissipates after a few hours. If it is accompanied by hearing loss there is a strong possibility this tinnitus will be permanent.
  • Ringing (Low-pitched): This could be a possible sign of Meniere’s disease. Tinnitus caused by this disease is usually accompanied by vertigo (the sense that you or the room is spinning).
  • Rushing or humming: This sound is usually vascular in origin and changes with your heart rate. You can test this by raising your heart rate through exercise and observing if the rate of the sound changes too. Your doctor may ask you to perform this same test as part of your tinnitus diagnosis.

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