Tinnitus

Ringing in ears is associated with the condition known as tinnitus. Read on to find out tinnitus causes and how to deal with it.

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What is Tinnitus?

 A common phenomenon, tinnitus is the perception of noise in your ears, not heard by others. It usually sounds like buzzing or ringing in the ear, but a crackling, whooshing, humming or cicada-like sound is not uncommon. 

Tinnitus is a symptom of other problems within the inner ear and may be associated with hearing loss, a feeling of fullness in the ear or vertigo, which is linked to an imbalance of fluid within the ear.

Causes of Tinnitus

The most common cause of tinnitus is presbyacusis, or age-related hearing loss. It frequently occurs when you experience hearing loss caused by factors like excessive noise exposure or ototoxicity, or “ear poisoning”, caused by certain drugs. For patients taking chemotherapy drugs, tinnitus may be a warning of impending hearing loss. 

Patients suffering from an inner-ear disorder called Ménière’s disease may also experience repeated episodes of tinnitus associated with hearing loss, fullness in the ear and vertigo. Occasionally, such occurences can be due to the presence of earwax or other objects resting against the eardrum. In rare cases, they can result from blood flow abnormalities close to the ear and sound like pulsating whooshes to the sufferer.

Tinnitus Treatment

Often, tinnitus cannot be treated. Some patients learn to cope with the condition or notice it less with time so they only hear the noise from tinnitus when a room is completely silent. As these periods of silence coincide with bedtime, some patients choose to cover up the noise by playing soft, background music or low-volume radio static while sleeping. 

Hearing aids can be especially helpful for those experiencing concurrent hearing loss and tinnitus as they block out the tinnitus while improving your sense of hearing. Some patients may try remedies like ginkgo biloba and acupuncture to improve their condition, but there is little evidence for their efficacy. If you have chronic tinnitus and find it highly uncomfortable, counselling and therapy from audiologists can be helpful.

How Can Tinnitus Be Avoided?

Tinnitus is closely linked to hearing loss. As such, the most effective way to prevent it from occurring is to protect your ears by turning down the volume of your personal music players and using ear protection when working in noisy environments.

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