Tinnitus – An Annoying But Manageable Condition

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Simply put, tinnitus is a noise in the ears, described as a ringing or buzzing.  Almost twenty percent of the population suffers from this condition.  If the tinnitus is mild, it may be no more than a quite noise that is easily ignored, or masked by other distracting noises.  There are also measure that can be taken to deal with more severe tinnitus.

Symptoms

Tinnitus consists of sound, that is heard only by the victim.  It may be constant or it may be intermittent.  At times the sound may disappear, increase, or decrease in volume, but it never leaves completely.  To me, tinnitus sounds like a cross between a mosquito and a bee, sometimes in the distance, and sometimes in the ear itself.  Others describe the sound as booming, buzzing, swooshing, crackling, or hissing.

Causes

Tinnitus has a wide variety of causes.  In people of any age, it can be caused by over-exposure to loud music or noise, as in the use of heavy machinery.  In the elderly, it may merely be a symptom of old age, accompanied by mild hearing loss.  Some medications cause the condition, or at least worsen it.   There are many such medications.  A complete list of drugs that may cause tinnitus can be found at the following site: http://www.t-gone.com/tinnitus/drugs.asp  Smoking, and excessive use of alcohol, can cause tinnitus, as can high blood pressure, and any condition that interferes with the normal flow of blood.   Meniere’s disease, a problem of the inner ear, may cause tinnitus, or the cause may be as simple as excess ear wax, an ear infection, or a foreign object in the ear canal.   Stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and depression may also cause tinnitus, either temporary, or permanent.  Those with chronic diseases, those in poor health, and males are more likely than others to suffer from tinnitus

Treatments

The only cure for tinnitus is to eliminate or cure the underlying cause or disease.  To do this you must start by visiting your family physician.  Be prepared to discuss exactly what you are hearing, other symptoms you may have, your general health,  other health problems you may have or have had, and any medications you may take, both prescription and over-the-counter.  This will help the physician diagnose the cause of your tinnitus.

Your physician will examine your ears to check for infection, foreign objects, and excess wax.  You may be put on antibiotics to clear up any infection, or it may be suggested that you need surgery to repair any damage existing in the ear itself.  If your tinnitus symptoms are seveer, there are several medications that may help, but these may have unpleasant side-affects.  Your physician will discuss these with you.

Controlling The Sound

If you have taken all measures to cure underlying cause, you may have to deal with the sound on your own.  To do this you may resort to a ‘white-sound’ machine at night to blot out the sound so that you can sleep.  A fan or air-conditioner may also help.  There are also small hearing-aid types of ‘white-sound machines that you can wear during the day, which not only blot out the sound, but help you to ignore it.

Generally, you just want some other sound to distract you.  You may turn on music, or the television, or you may simply talk to yourself.   I tend to hum or whistle under my breath – a habit annoying to others – but, for me, it works.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent all tinnitus, but some things definitely help.

1.  Avoid excess alcohol and do not smoke.

2.  Keep your weight down.  Improve your general health, and exercise regularly.  This will improve your circulation and help you keep a healthy blood pressure.

3.  Avoid loud noise, if possible.  If that is not possible, then use ear plugs.

4.  Clean your ears with care.  Use a soft wash cloth rather than any poking objects.  If wax tends to build up in your ears, have them flushed frequently.  This is a simple, painless procedure, done in your doctor’s office.

Hearing is precious.  Always discuss any hearing problems you have with your family physician.

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