Bilateral tinnitus is defined as ear noise heard in both ears. According to the Tinnitus Treatment Institute, there is no source for the ear sounds. The Mayo Clinic states tinnitus is not a condition but a symptom of another problem. Tinnitus is not usually considered a sign of something serious, although it can be annoying.
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According to the Mayo Clinic, tinnitus symptoms are characterized by phantom noises in the ears. These noises are described as ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, whistling or hissing. The sound can vary in pitch and may be constant or intermittent.
Tinnitus can involve one or both ears. The Mayo Clinic recognizes two kinds of tinnitus: subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus is only heard by the patient and is caused by problems with the outer, middle or inner ear or nerve signals. Objective tinnitus can also be heard by the health care provider during the examination. Although rare, this type of tinnitus can be caused by a blood vessel, inner ear bone or muscle tissue problem.
According to the Mayo Clinic, many conditions can cause or worsen tinnitus, but often the exact cause is never found. A common cause of tinnitus is inner ear cell damage, which occurs when the tiny hairs in the inner ear are bent or broken. The damage to these delicate hairs can cause random signals to be sent to the brain, causing the phantom noise.
Other conditions that cause tinnitus are chronic health problems, head or ear injuries, auditory nerve damage or damage to the hearing center in the brain. The Mayo Clinic lists additional causes as age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, earwax buildup, stiffening of ear bones and diseases such as Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder caused by abnormal fluid in the ear. According to Tinnitus Treatment Institute, the most common causes of bilateral tinnitus tend to be loud noises and aspirin toxicity.
The Mayo Clinic states that anyone can get tinnitus, but factors that can increase the risk of tinnitus include exposure to loud noise without ear protection, being age 65 or older, hearing loss related to age, being male, being Caucasian and a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder.
Tinnitus can affect the quality of life, and complications can include fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, inability to concentrate, memory difficulties, depression, anxiety and irritability.
A health care provider will examine the ears, head and neck to look for causes of bilateral tinnitus. Other diagnostic interventions may include a complete hearing exam, assessment for earwax buildup, neurological testing and possibly X-rays, CT scans or MRIs.
Bilateral tinnitus treatment will vary depending on the cause. The Mayo Clinic states that treatment may include earwax removal, medication, surgery and noise suppression such as white noise machines, hearing aids and masking devices to help block out the bothersome phantom noises.