Most people have never heard of the term Tinnitus, but many are often affected and their lives change greatly by this condition. Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears

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Most people have never heard of the term Tinnitus, but many are often affected and their lives change greatly by this condition. Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears. Ringing is often described as a ring, buzz, hiss, hum, roar, or pulse. Tinnitus can occur for a brief period or can last for the rest of a person’s life. No matter how long it lasts, it is often very aggravating and can affect ones quality of life. We live in a noisy world and loud noise exposure, which can affect your hearing, is the most common cause of Tinnitus. Tinnitus may be the first sign of inner ear damage affecting the fine hair cells of the cochlea in your ears.

Tinnitus can be transient which means that the ringing lasts about 20 seconds and then goes away. This is usually of no significance and not of great concern. Most Tinnitus lasts longer and usually has some reason for its presence. There are many other causes of Tinnitus that can be found and treated.

The symptoms of Tinnitus can change. Things that can cause these fluctuations include stress, noise, fatigue, lack of sleep, migraines, hearing fluctuations, tobacco, caffeine, salt, head injury, muscle tension in the jaw and neck, dental problems, sinus problems, wax impaction in the ear canal, and certain medications. There are over 500 medications that list Tinnitus as a possible side effect but the more common ones are aspirin, anti-inflammatory agents, loop diuretics like furosemide, aminoglycoside antibiotics, quinine, risedronate for osteoporosis, and chemotherapy drugs. Some can even tell an increase in the noise following a short nap.

Even though the most common cause for Tinnitus is a hearing loss, there are numerous other causes. There are a number of tests that are performed by your physician when trying to find out your cause. These tests can include a comprehensive hearing test, acoustic reflex tests, auditory brainstem responses, vestibular evoked myogenic potentials, and MRI scanning.

Treatment of Tinnitus of course would start with treatment of any underlying cause found on testing. Avoidance of loud noise, limiting stress, getting enough sleep, stopping tobacco use, limiting caffeine and salt use, treating dental and sinus problems are simple things that can be tried first. Hearing aids have been helpful in people fighting the frustrating symptoms. Hearing aids enable the brain not to have to work as hard to hear so the internal volume control in the brain is turned down. They also allow more background sound from the environment to reach the brain so you do not perceive the sounds of your Tinnitus. Medications have been shown to be helpful as well. A medication such as benzodiazepines, which is a type of a tranquilizer, is helpful to reduce the loudness of the noise. Others might need to use a medication to control their mood like an antidepressant, or an agent to help them sleep. Non-medicine treatments include counseling and sound therapy. Sound therapy is the use of a wide-spectrum sound played through earphones. This has the potential to have relaxing sound therapy mix with the annoying sound of the Tinnitus to try to calm down and neutralize the noise. The brain can actually be retrained to interpret a new sound as neutral.

The best treatment for any medical problem of course is never having the problem to begin with. Please start early reducing your loud noise exposure by wearing the proper ear protection. Do not start smoking or stop if you already do. If you begin to perceive any new noises, please get to your doctor early for help. With the proper treatment, even someone with chronic Tinnitus can get relief. I wish everyone good health.
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