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Tinnitus and Ringing In The Ears

Tinnitus or ringing in the ears (also perceived as whistling, hissing, buzzing, roaring) is a condition that can occur in different parts of the ear and does not come from external sound sources. It can be extremely uncomfortable for the sufferer depending on its continuity and severity. The condition may be permanent or it may come and go with different intensity and could affect one or both ears. Tinnitus is not a disease but can indicate various underlying health conditions. It is also very common in people who have some degree of hearing loss. In addition, groups at higher risk of Tinnitus are those who work in noisy environments and seniors.

Types and causes of tinnitus

Tinnitus can be objective (pulsatile) or subjective (nonpulsatile). The cause of objective tinnitus is usually muscle spasms or increased blood pressure around the ears, neck or face. These contractions or pulses can be heard by the ear and perceived as a crackling or clicking sound. They can be alleviated if the underlying condition is improved with a treatment.

Subjective tinnitus is connected to damage in the nerves responsible for hearing. The same nerve damage could lead to hearing loss as well. It usually occurs after a prolonged exposure to loud noises or it could be a side effect of certain medications such as aspirin, quinidine or some antibiotics. Other causes include ear infections and earwax impaction, age-related hearing deterioration, various neurologic or metabolic disorders, depression, excessive use of alcohol and caffeine, otosclerosis, head trauma, tumours, etc. However, in many cases the single source of the ringing is not found.

Treatments

Tinnitus, like any other health problem, has a significant impact on the sufferer’s lifestyle. It can lead to stress, anxiety, insomnia, problems with concentrating and memory. There is not a specific cure for tinnitus as every person’s complaints and severity are different. In many cases, tinnitus appears and then subsides and cannot be helped with medical treatment. However, some methods are used to manage the condition.

One way to cope with tinnitus is to treat the diseases that can be connected to it or change existing medication with another whose side effects are not known to affect hearing. If there is hearing loss present, wearing hearing aids may alleviate the condition.

A popular method recommended by specialists is the use of noise creating devices that will “hide” the ringing sound and replace it with a pleasant one such as sounds of the ocean or soft, programmed music targeted to mask particular frequencies of the individual tinnitus sounds.

Perception is also an important part in accepting and living with tinnitus. Many counselling programmes are aimed to explain and help sufferers understand their condition and focus less on the sounds they hear inside their ears while providing them with emotional support.

Alternative medicine has also offered some solutions to help the condition of tinnitus. These include aromatherapy, acupuncture, magnet therapy, yoga, meditation, massages and others. Herbs connected to alleviating the condition are hawthorn, black cohosh and ginkgo biloba. Although some people report a decrease of tinnitus and improvement, studies are indecisive as to how beneficial these methods are and if they are actually helpful.

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