Tinnitus is referred to as a ringing or roaring sound that occurs in one or both ears. The sound may be soft or loud, high pitched, or low pitched. Tinnitus can occur at any age in children and adults. The presence of tinnitus in children over a long period of time may be considered normal to them and your child may fail to complain about the problem.
Tinnitus most commonly results from damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear. Injury to these endings further causes hearing loss. Exposure to loud noises and side effects of certain medicines such as anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, sedatives, antidepressants, and aspirin can also cause tinnitus. Tinnitus may also be caused by other conditions such as ear blockage, ear and sinus infections, allergies, high or low blood pressure, tumors, problems in the heart or blood vessels, Meniere’s disease, and thyroid abnormalities.
A buzzing or ringing type of sound is heard in the ear which can be continuous or intermittent and vary in pitch from a low sound to a high-pitched sound. It may be accompanied by a syndrome known as Meniere's disease. Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that causes severe hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and dizziness.
Your doctor will diagnose tinnitus by a thorough physical examination and asking about your child’s medical history. Additional tests such as a complete hearing test (audiogram), brain scan such as MRI or CT scan may be required to confirm the condition.
Spinal tap test may also be required to evaluate the fluid pressure in the skull and spinal cord.
Treatment options for tinnitus include:
- Counseling: Many children dealing with tinnitus may get worried about them being the only ones affected with this problem. Educational counseling will help your child understand and change their approach towards tinnitus.
- Hearing aids: These devices help in correcting hearing loss in children with tinnitus. These devices help to control the outside sound and make it easier to hear.
- Wearable sound generators: These are small electronic devices placed in the ear which will mask the tinnitus by using a soft pleasant sound.
- Tabletop sound generators: In this a generator is used to play pleasant sounds such as waves, waterfalls, rain, or the sounds of a summer night to help your child relax or fall asleep.
- Acoustic neural stimulation: It is a new technique for people who experience very loud ringing sounds. It involves the use of a palm-sized device and headphones that play music which is embedded with a broadband acoustic signal. This treatment will stimulate the change in the neural pathways and allow the brain to become desensitized to the sound.
- Cochlear implant: The cochlear implant helps to mask tinnitus and stimulates fibers of the auditory nerve.
- Antidepressants and antianxiety drugs may be recommended to relax and help to sleep.
Some of the preventive tips to reduce or lessen the severity of tinnitus are:
- Avoid exposure to loud sound and noise
- Blood pressure should be regularly checked and controlled
- Routine exercises to improve your circulation
- Avoid worrying about the noise
Tinnitus is a common childhood problem which can unknowingly bother your child for a long time. For children who are affected with tinnitus, various options of support and therapies are available to help the child cope with the condition.