How to Treat That Ringing in Your Ears

earRoughly one in five Americans struggle with tinnitus – typically described as a constant or intermittent ringing sound that people hear in one or both ears. It’s a problem that strikes our nation’s veterans particularly hard, according to the American Tinnitus Association.

“Tinnitus is a growing problem for America’s military personnel,” the association says on its website.

“It threatens their futures with potential long-term sleep disruption, changes in cognitive ability, stress in relationships and employability challenges. These changes can be a blow to a vet’s self-worth.”

Exposure to high levels of noise is one of the leading triggers of tinnitus, which could explain why many veterans struggle with it. But they’re not alone. Prolonged exposure to loud noise can damage the tiny sensory hair cells in your ear that send sound to your brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. That puts factory and construction workers, firefighters and musicians among the other high-risk groups.

Tinnitus can stem from other medical conditions such as vascular malformations, certain tumors or fistulas. In those situations, neurointerventional radiology procedures can be used to treat the condition. In most cases, these patients are referred by an ENT physician.

  • Neurointerventional radiology provides minimally invasive intervention through the use of small catheters and wires.  In the case of tinnitus, these devices are used within the blood vessels to cut off blood supply to the affected area. 

Older adults, men, smokers and people with cardiovascular problems are also more likely to suffer from tinnitus.

One way to protect yourself from tinnitus is to wear earplugs if you work in an environment where the sound is higher than 85 decibels. A good rule of thumb is if you’re standing three feet away from someone and can’t hear what they’re saying, the noise level could be damaging your hearing.

  • Augusto Elias, MD, neurointerventional radiologist with Clinical Radiologists, S.C., in Springfield, offers treatment in the acute setting and also offers a clinic to see patients in the non-acute setting.  To schedule an appointment, call 217-588-2726.