Tinnitus, also called tinnitus, is defined as the perception of a sound in the absence of a sound source. It can be objective, when it is caused by sounds generated in the body and transmitted to the ear, or subjective, caused by abnormal neural activity. "Objective tinnitus is rare, but the subjective one is a frequent disorder whose incidence increases with age, from 5% between 20 and 30 years, to 12% of those affected after age 50," says Dr. Bartolomé Scola, director of Voice and Otorhinolaryngology Unit of Vithas International, a center belonging to the Vithas health group, which has 19 hospitals and 29 medical centers in Spain.
As the specialist points out, there are multiple risk factors for subjective tinnitus, such as hearing loss from any cause, including those related to age, acoustic trauma, infectious diseases, administration of ototoxic antibiotics and cytostatics.
As for the severity of tinnitus, it is very variable and there are no objective tests that can quantify the degree of involvement beyond the evaluation of the person. "The patient usually refers to a certain amount of discomfort when he or she is in a quiet environment but can sometimes alter their quality of life, affecting their ability to work intellectually or disrupt their sleep," says Dr. Scola.
Currently, the mechanism of tinnitus production is not known and there are probably different associated pathophysiologies. "Therefore, it is not possible to establish a single approach and each case must be treated in a personalized way. There are different management possibilities that have proven effective in achieving better tolerance and reducing discomfort."
As Dr. Scola explains, there are different ways to manage tinnitus. "Occasionally, treating an underlying condition that is causing hearing loss will relieve tinnitus, for example, the removal of earwax or a foreign body."
However, these quick ways to relieve tinnitus are not possible most of the time. For these other more frequent cases, the possible options of management consist in the use of hearing aids, that allow an improvement of tinnitus with hearing loss in 50% of the patients; buzzing masks through noise generators; Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), which consists of combining therapeutic counseling with sound therapy and pharmacological treatments, always individually.
In addition, cochlear implant clinical trials are being developed in patients with unilateral deafness and disabling tinnitus. Similarly, cranial magnetic stimulation is in the research phase.
And although there is no curative treatment today, the personalized approach can greatly improve the patient's quality of life.