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Ringing in Ears, Tinnitus- Causes, Risk factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

What is Ringing in the ears, Tinnitus (Definition)

Ringing in Ears, Tinnitus is the perception of abnormal [(Tinnitus)] in the ear or in the head. This condition is annoying enough in itself. It is also, sometimes, a symptom of other problems, such as hearing loss, tumors and narrowing of blood vessels.

Noises can be sharp and ‘buzz’, or sound more like a click. Some types of tinnitus are pulsatile. This means that they can be caused by the blood flow that accompanies each heartbeat. This type of tinnitus occurs due to narrowing of the blood vessels.

Ringing in Ears, Tinnitus Causes

Many diseases and conditions are associated with tinnitus, including:

  • Loss of hearing, the most frequent case of persistent tinnitus
  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Presence of cerumen or a foreign body in the ear canal
  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder
  • Hearing infection
  • Liquid in the ear
  • ACV
  • Certain medications (see below)
  • Allergies
  • Rupture of the tympanic membrane
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Hypertension or low blood pressure
  • Injuries to the head and neck
  • Tumors
  • Disorders in the blood vessels, such as aneurysm or hardening of the arteries
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems

Infrequent episodes of tinnitus that last only a few minutes are quite common in people who do not suffer from any disease, especially after being exposed to deafening noises.

Ringing in Ears, Tinnitus Risk factors

The risk of suffering from tinnitus increases with the following factors:

  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Certain medications:
  • Aspirin
  • Quinine and its derivatives
  • Some antibiotics (aminoglycosides)
  • Some diuretics (water pills)

Toxins:

  • Heavy metals
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Alcohol

Ringing in Ears, Tinnitus Symptoms

 

The symptoms can have the following characteristics:

  • Resonances, purrs, buzzes, whistles or hisses
  • Intermittent and continuous pulsations
  • Equal or varied intensity
  • Single or multiple tones
  • Doorbells that come and go
  • More annoying symptoms during the night or at the least distraction
  • Sensation of normal internal movements, such as a blood pulse or muscle contraction

Sometimes, tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss and vertigo.

When should I call the doctor?

Call your doctor if you have tinnitus, especially if:

  • They are related to hearing loss, dizziness, changes in personality and speech, or weakness in any part of the body
  • They start after a head or neck injury
  • They are related to new medicines
  • They are pulsatile
  • They are related to pain in the ear, fever, nausea or vomiting

Ringing in Ears, Tinnitus Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
Pay special attention to the head, neck and ears.

You may be questioned regarding:

  • The sensations that it has
  • Factors that increase or decrease sensation (eg, breathing, dizziness)
  • The medications you take
  • The doctor will watch your ear canal and the eardrum using an instrument with a light that is placed in the outer opening of the ear. A tuning fork can help the valuation. You will receive a complete hearing study.
  • Other studies such as an MRI scan (MRI Scan) can be requested to rule out possible serious conditions.

Ringing in Ears, Tinnitus Treatment

The treatment for tinnitus depends on what causes the symptoms.
It can include, for example:

  • Use a special splint to help treat temporomandibular joint disorder
  • Take antibiotics to treat sinusitis or an ear infection
  • Remove cerumen from the ear canal

The goal of treatment is to eliminate or reduce discomfort. The treatment may include:

Medicines for Tinnitus

There are no effective medications for the treatment of tinnitus. However, the doctor may try to use some medications to relieve the symptoms. Some of the medications that are usually tried are antidepressants and sedatives.

If you have Meniere’s disease, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat that condition.

Mechanical devices

These devices include:

  • Hearing aids: sometimes relieve tinnitus and improve hearing in some people with hearing loss
  • Tinnitus maskers: they emit a low level white noise that helps to cover the internal sensations and blocks external noises

Lifestyle and Personal Care Guidelines

Guidelines to discuss with your doctor if there is no cure, or specific treatment, which include:

  • Learning and practice of stress and relaxation control techniques.
  • Biofeedback can be useful. Biofeedback shows people how to control bodily functions that usually do not pay much attention.
  • Consider consulting a therapist to develop new skills to deal with the problem and learn relaxation techniques.
  • Consider the option to join a support group.
  • Avoid everything that makes tinnitus worse, such as: 
    • loud noises
    • alcohol
    • smoking
    • salt
    • caffeine
  • exercise regularly to improve circulation.
  • Take some time to relax and get enough sleep.
  • Listening to a radio or a white noise machine for about 30 minutes at bedtime can help alleviate noisy sensations at night.

Surgery for Tinnitus

Surgery can help relieve certain causes of tinnitus, if this cause is treated.

Tinnitus caused by a tumor often subsists after the tumor has been removed. If the tinnitus is due to the accumulation of cerumen, it can be relieved with a clean ear. Abnormalities in blood vessels that cause tinnitus can sometimes be corrected through surgery.  Surgery may also be an option for patients suffering from Meniere’s disease, but it is usually done only to avoid dizziness.

How to Prevent Ringing in Ears, Tinnitus

You can prevent the development of tinnitus through simple measures:

  1. Avoid exposing yourself to excessive noise.
  2. Use plugs in noisy situations.
  3. Wear ear protectors when cutting the grass.
  4. Learn and practice stress and relaxation control techniques.
  5. Limit the use of medicines that damage hearing.

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