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Ann M. Quarantillo, AuD, Licensed Hearing Aid Specialist
Tinnitus -" The Noises in Your Ears
Virginia Head & Neck Surgeons, PC
. http://www.drsilvaent.com/

Tinnitus -" The Noises in Your Ears

Tinnitus is defined by the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) as “the perception of sound in one or both ears or in the head when no external sound is present”. It can affect people quite differently, with a range in volume, frequency, and sound. Tinnitus can come and go occasionally or be constant and its perceived volume can range from subtle or hardly noticeable to very audible and distracting.
Most people think of tinnitus as ringing in the ears, but it can also be described as hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping, or clicking. According to the ATA, it is estimated that over 50 million Americans experience tinnitus to some degree. An estimated 12 million have severe enough tinnitus to seek medical attention and about two million patients are so seriously affected that it disrupts their normal daily function.
Tinnitus is still somewhat of a mystery in that the exact physiological cause is not known, although many experts believe it comes from damage to hearing structures. Here are several likely causes that can trigger tinnitus or make it worse.
Exposure to loud noises
Wax build up in the ear canal
Certain medications, including ototoxic drugs or those that are toxic to the ear
Ear or sinus infections
Certain types of tumors, such as those that affect the hearing or vestibular nerve
Head and neck trauma
Certain conditions of the inner ear, such as Menieres
Unfortunately, many cases of tinnitus are never fully understood and an exact cause is not determined. If a medical cause is found, it is possible that the noises may be reduced. For example, if a plug of ear wax is removed from the ear canal, this may lessen the intensity of the sound. Likewise, if a certain medication seems to be the culprit, discuss this with your prescribing physician to see if an alternate medication is available.
If no medical cause is ever determined, your doctor may recommend coping mechanisms to help you deal with the tinnitus. Typically, tinnitus is more noticeable when you go to bed at night or anytime your environment is quiet. Therefore, it is often recommended that you attempt to mask the tinnitus by other sounds, such as clock radios set to a “static” channel, ceiling fans, a humidifier, or nature sound machines. Stress and anxiety may worsen symptoms. Therefore learning ways to relax and getting enough rest may help lessen the intensity of tinnitus. Caffeine, alcohol, and smoking have also been associated with increased tinnitus. Also, avoid loud levels of noise exposure whenever possible and wear hearing protection if you do need to be in the presence of noise.
It is important to remember that tinnitus is a symptom and not a disease. Therefore, if you experience tinnitus, it is crucial to seek a thorough examination and evaluation by an ear, nose and throat physician and audiologist to possibly determine or rule out medical conditions that may be the underlying cause.
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