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The detection/ diagnosis of tinnitus

About the diagnosis possibilities, different types of tinnitus tests & co.

In this article, learn more the possible cause of tinnitus and how it can be diagnosed using the most common tinnitus test procedures. Discover the many options Amplifon offers for diagnosing tinnitus and book a free consultation with a hearing care professional.

Is it possible to detect tinnitus?

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, can have various triggers and occur at any age, most commonly after the age of 50. In most cases, tinnitus is difficult to detect as only certain types of tinnitus can be measured. In order to diagnose this condition, the patient must visit an ear, nose and throat specialist and undergo various hearing tests to find the root cause.

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This is how you test for tinnitus

If the patient perceives a rhythmic pulsing noise in one or both ears, which tends to be synced with their heartbeat, they may be suffering from pulsatile tinnitus, also known as pulse synchronous. If only the patient hears the noises, they may be suffering from subjective tinnitus. The majority of cases of tinnitus are subjective. Tthe rarest form of tinnitus is objective tinnitus and it is a condition usually caused by disorders affecting the blood vessels (vascular system) or muscles (muscular system).

As there are different types of tinnitus, and each type can have many triggers, it can a difficult condition to diagnose. Consult an ENT speacialist if the ringing in the ears lasts longer than two days. 

Step 1: Anamnesis

Anamnesis is the taking of a patient's personal medical history. The physician asks the patient questions regarding present illnesses, complaints and disorders. For a more accurate diagnosis,  all previous ear conditions, such as ringing in the ears, must be disclosed to the doctor during this phase. Keep in mind that stress and psychological factors can often play an important.

Step 2: Examination by an ENT specialist

Even if an initial diagnosis has already been given by a physician, it is key to consult an ENT specialist for a more definitive diagnosis. To be able to establish a diagnosis and the best treatment for the patient, a comprehensive examination takes place at the ENT doctor, such as an ear microscopy, hearing tests and special tinnitus tests.

In order to determine the hearing threshold, it is important to rule out other possible causes of tinnitus, such as ear diseases (e.g. an ear canal infection) or a plug of earwax .

Common procedures to examine tinnitus

Your doctor will typically diagnose you with tinnitus based on your symptoms alone. However, in order to treat your symptoms, your doctor must identify whether your tinnitus is caused by an underlying condition. After an initial examination of your movements, there are a few common tests to help identify the cause of your tinnitus.

Otoacoustic emissions (OAE)

When sounds hit the ear, the hair cells in the inner ear contract. The otoacoustic emission test (OAE) measures hair cell function in the inner ear.

To perform this test, microphones are placed in the external auditory canal. These highly sensitive microphones are able to register particularly quiet sounds, allowing the doctor to observe the various processes occuring in the inner ear in detail, including Spontaneous and evoked otoacoustic emissions.

  • Spontaneous otoacoustic emissions (SOAE) are the continous sounds emitted from the ear produced without the influence of an acoustic stimulus.
  • Evoked otoacoustic emissions are the sounds emitted from the ear produced by external acoustic stimuli. A distinction is made between: transitory evoked OAE (TEOAE), simultaneous evoked OAE (SEOAE) and distortion product OAE (DPOAE or DP).

Incidentally, this test is also used when screening the hearing of newborns and infants or for early detection of noise-induced hearing damage in occupational medicine.

Brainstem Audiometry (ABR)

BERA (Brainstem Evoked Response Audiometry) is another hearing examination commonly used to diagnose tinnitus. This examination tests the nerve reactions in the brain that take place during the processing of auditory stimuli. The examination of these early auditory evoked potentials (FEAP) is painless.

To perform this test, three to four electrodes are placed around the head to measure what happens in certain areas of the brain when a sound is processed. This can tell us a lot about the functionality of the auditory nerve, the auditory pathway and can help exclude an acoustic neuroma, a type of non-cancerous (benign) brain tumour that can trigger tinnitus.

Tinnitus matching

Tinnitus sound therapy is a treatment that matches the frequency of your tinnitus tone. Since there is no way to objectively measure the frequency, the patient must "hear" for themselves when the frequency played through the headphones by the ENT doctor matches to their tinnitinus tone.

Once the ringing in the ears is superimposed by a tone, the ENT doctor can determine the frequency of the tinnitus condition.

Other examination methods

Depending on the results of the initial hearing tests described above, ENT doctors may perform additional tests:

  • Tuning fork test: This examination can help determine the patient's hearing threshold.
  • MRI: An MRI is used to exclude certain causes for the tinnitus, such as an acoustic neuroma.). In some cases, an MRI of the cervical spine may also be taken.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound is also used to identify the root cause of tinnitus.
  • Balance disorder tests: These tests can help identify problems in the inner and middle ear.
  • Angiography: A CT angiography or also an angio-MRI are used to examine the vessels, veins and arteries near the ear.
  • Tympanometry: This hearing test provides clarity about the condition of the eardrum and middle ear.

About tinnitus sick leave

A tinnitus sick leave is at the discretion of the doctor. The duration of a tinnitus sick leave can depend on what triggered the condition in the first place. If the trigger is stress, taking sick leave may be a viable option. Oftentimes, taking a break can help the tinnitus symptoms subside significantly or disappear altogether. However, if taking sick leave only removes all distractions and enhances the perception of disturbing sounds, it may be best to discuss other options with your doctor.

Have your tinnitus checked at Amplifon

Do you hear a ringing sound in your ears? Get a free consultation with a tinnitus specialist at the Amplifon centre nearest to you. Our hearing care professiona will take a close look at your individual case and, if necessary, carry out a more comprehensive hearing examination. To book an appointment, visit the Amplifon centre nearest to you or make an appointment in advance using our online form. 

Consult a tinnitus specialist

If you suspect you may be suffering from tinnitus, get a free, no-obligation consultation with a tinnitus specialist at Amplifon. Our hearing care professionals will arrange all further examinations, if necessary, to find the right treatment for you.

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Learn more on how your hearing works, thanks to our experts contents. You can also have a look at our blog, with our lates news. 

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