What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is any sound heard in the ears that cannot be explained by an external sound source. Tinnitus most commonly manifests as ringing in the ears but is also often described as buzzing, humming, hissing, and clicking. Tinnitus can occur in one ear or both ears and can happen sporadically or continuously. Tinnitus is a common problem, affecting about 15% of people in the United States. It can occur in children but is particularly common in adults. Generally, tinnitus is a symptom of another underlying condition. In most cases, tinnitus is a symptom of hearing loss, but can also be associated with impacted ear wax, noise exposure, head trauma, or circulatory problems. For most patients experiencing tinnitus, their perception of tinnitus improves with treatment of the underlying condition.
Can children be at risk for tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not uncommon in children. Research shows about one-third of children perceive tinnitus at some point in their childhood. In some cases, the child is too young to report what they are experiencing or is not bothered enough by the sound to mention it. Children with tinnitus may also think hearing tinnitus sounds is normal and something everyone experiences.
What is Pediatric Tinnitus?
Any sound heard by a child that is not generated by an external source or cannot be heard by others is considered pediatric tinnitus. Like tinnitus occurring in adults, common sounds heard are ringing, buzzing, chirping, roaring, clicking, and hissing. Pediatric tinnitus can also occur in one or both ears and can be heard intermittently or continuously. Tinnitus severity widely varies based on the patient, but children with bothersome tinnitus can experience difficulty concentrating and learning at school. Although it is rare, children with extremely bothersome pediatric tinnitus can also suffer from psychological problems and require the help of a mental health professional. Pediatric tinnitus can occur in the presence of normal hearing; however, it can also be an early sign of an underlying condition such as impacted ear wax, ear infection, or hearing loss. If a child expresses hearing noises in their ears that are not heard by another person or is showing other warning signs, consider scheduling an appointment with a pediatric audiologist to rule out any underlying conditions.
What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Tinnitus?
Children with tinnitus do not always report symptoms of tinnitus because they do not know tinnitus sounds are not normal or are not bothered by the sound. Listed below are some behaviors that can be a red flag for pediatric tinnitus. Signs and symptoms to look out for in children:
- Fatigue (excessive tiredness)
- Hearing ringing, buzzing, humming, hissing, roaring, or clicking sounds
- Short attention span
- Sensitivity to noise
- Difficulty sleeping
What are the causes of Pediatric Tinnitus?
Tinnitus happens when your child’s brain processes sounds differently in response to certain conditions. These conditions, or causes, may include:
- Abnormal growth of middle ear bones
- Congenital (from birth) hearing loss
- Damage caused by certain medications, including cancer treatment
- Damage caused by listening to earphones too loudly
- Frequent ear infections
- Injury to the eardrum
- Problems with jaw alignment
- Wax buildup in ear canal
Children experiencing pediatric tinnitus is not uncommon and some may even believe it to be normal. Even in the case of bothersome pediatric tinnitus, fortunately, there are hearing healthcare professionals that are well-equipped with management strategies to offer. Early intervention is key and if a management strategy is followed consistently, many children with pediatric tinnitus report an improvement in their symptoms and quality of life.
Although the condition may be common, it can be distressing for many people! If a child reports any signs or symptoms pertaining to hearing loss or tinnitus, audiologists
Tinnitus can be a distressing condition. The otolaryngologists and audiologists at CHOP are here to help! They will explore all of the options for management of tinnitus, treatment of its underlying cause, and support for your child as they cope with their condition with the goal of improving your child’s quality of life as soon as possible.