What’s the Buzz? Treatment Strategies in Chronic Subjective Tinnitus

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Researchers have discovered that tinnitus is not simply a cochlear phenomenon. The pathology extends well beyond the auditory complex, having a deleterious effect on both the somatosensory and central nervous systems, providing some explanation for the prevalence of anxiety and depression associated with the disorder (see "Pathophysiology of tinnitus").9-17

Pathophysiology of Tinnitus

Because of the insidious nature of tinnitus and lack of standard measures of severity, true prevalence is difficult to calculate.18


Tinnitus can be a presenting complaint or elicited during history-taking. Symptomatic patients should receive full evaluation, including a complete physical exam, medication history, and laboratory workup.

Adverse effect of drugs

Medications that commonly cause tinnitus symptoms are NSAIDs, chemotherapeutic agents, and antibiotics (eg, macrolides and fluoroquinolones). Amiodarone, ACE inhibitors, proton-pump inhibitors, and calcium-channel blockers have also been implicated. Paradoxically, anxiolytics and tricyclic antidepressants, which are sometimes used to treat tinnitus, have been linked to causing the condition.7

Laboratory tests and imaging

Testing should include investigation for infectious disease, autoimmune disorders, and vitamin deficiency.7 According to the American College of Radiology, imaging is unnecessary in the workup of primary tinnitus. Any suspicion of a vascular cause noted on the physical exam (eg, an associated bruit or venous hum), however, should be explored with imaging. Furthermore, any case of tinnitus that lateralizes also requires additional investigation. Modalities of choice are MRI, CT, and CT angiography.19

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