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Tinnitus is a ringing, swishing, or other type of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head. In many cases it is not a serious problem, but rather a nuisance that eventually resolves. It is not a single disease, but a symptom of an underlying condition. Nearly 36 million Americans suffer from this disorder. In almost all cases, only the patient can hear the noise.
Alternative Names of Tinnitus are: ear noise, head noise, ringing in the ears, Meniere disease, pulsatile tinnitus, subjective tinnitus, objective tinnitus, hearing loss.
Complications of Tinnitus
Tinnitus can significantly affect quality of life. It affects people differently, but may be linked to:
Treating these linked conditions may not affect tinnitus directly, but it can help you feel better.
Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus can arise in any of the following areas: the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, or by abnormailities in the brain. Some tinnitus or head noise is normal. If one goes into a sound proof booth and normal outside noise is diminished, one becomes aware of these normal sounds. We are usually not aware of these normal body sounds, because outside noise masks them. Anything, such as wax or a foreign body in the external ear, that blocks these background sounds will cause us to be more aware of our own head sounds. Fluid, infection, or disease of the middle ear bones or ear drum (tympanic membrane) can also cause tinnitus. One of the most common causes of tinnitus is damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear. Advancing age is generally accompanied by a certain amount of hearing nerve impairment, and consequently tinnitus. Today, loud noise exposure is a very common cause of tinnitus, and it often damages hearing as well. Unfortunately, many people are unconcerned about the harmful effects of excessively loud noise, firearms, and high intensity music. Some medications (for example, aspirin) and other diseases of the inner ear (Meniere's syndrome) can cause tinnitus. Tinnitus can in very rare situations be a symptom of such serious problems as an aneurysm or a brain tumor (acoustic tumor).
Signs & Symptoms of Tinnitus
With tinnitus, you hear a noise that no one around you hears. This noise is usually a buzzing or ringing type sound, but it may be a clicking or rushing sound that goes along with your heartbeat. The sound is sometimes accompanied by hearing loss and dizziness in a syndrome known as Meniere's disease.
Diagnosis of Tinnitus
Treatments of Tinnitus
Prevention of Tinnitus
The only real prevention for tinnitus is to avoid damaging your hearing. Most causes other than hearing loss do not have prevention strategies.
According to the American Tinnitus Association, there are several things you can do to protect yourself from excessive noise-related tinnitus:
When to seek Medical Advice
Most newly noticed tinnitus should be evaluated by a physician. Because tinnitus is usually a symptom of something else, if it begins suddenly, see your doctor. This is particularly important if the tinnitus is only heard on one side.
Although the majority of cases of tinnitus are not caused by any acute problems, certain symptoms need to be evaluated to determine whether or not a more serious medical condition is causing the symptoms.
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