What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus (pronounced tin-NY-tus or TIN-u-tus) is the medical term for ringing or abnormal sounds like buzzing in the ear. The characteristics of the sound perceived may vary from person to person. Tinnitus is usually temporary but can become chronic or permanent.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a symptom of something wrong in the auditory system. Ear infections, nerve damage in the ear, blood vessel disease or inflammation, brain tumors, Ménière's disease, high blood pressure, hormonal changes in women, a side effect of some medications, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), or something simple like a build-up of earwax pushing on the eardrum (tympanic membrane) may be the cause.
Who is most likely to develop tinnitus?
People who work in noisy environments are more likely to develop tinnitus. Chronic loud noise such as the noise from a construction site, airplanes, or loud music can damage the nerves and cells in the ear and cause tinnitus.
Acute loud noises like a bomb blast can also cause the nerve damage and leave the patient with tinnitus. Tinnitus is one of the most common reasons for armed service-related disability.
What percent of the adult population has tinnitus?
Tinnitus is very common. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates over 50 million Americans (nearly 15% of the American public) experience some form of tinnitus from time to time. Approximately 20 million people suffer from chronic tinnitus.
Can tinnitus be cured?
There is no ''cure'' for tinnitus. Often the symptoms are transient and related to an episode of sound exposure, infection, or eardrum irritation and will go away on their own. Some people have known triggers of their tinnitus such as caffeine, alcohol, dairy, or chewing gum. Avoidance of things that may reproduce tinnitus such as avoiding loud music or noises, keeping blood pressure under control, and decreasing salt intake may help.
Some lifestyle changes can also help with the symptoms of tinnitus such as getting regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga, and using a white noise machine at night (to cover up the tinnitus sound).
What is true about tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be the first sign of hearing loss. Damage to the auditory nerve as we age sometimes manifests itself as a ringing or buzzing noise in the ear.
Tinnitus can also have a rhythm in time with your heartbeat, called pulsatile tinnitus. This can be caused by a problem with blood flow from the head or neck, and you should check with your doctor if you notice this symptom.
In some cases, tinnitus can develop with no known cause.
Can tinnitus be prevented or prevented from worsening?
Tinnitus that is caused by damage to the auditory nerve from loud or repetitive noises can be prevented, or prevented from worsening, by avoiding the source of the loud noise or wearing ear protection such as earplugs or earmuffs.
What is the treatment for tinnitus?
Treatment of tinnitus depends upon the cause. Treatments for tinnitus may include:
- Avoiding loud noises or wearing ear protection
- Using sound generators in quiet areas to mask the tinnitus and avoid silence
- Stress management techniques
- Hearing aids
- Physical therapy
- Bite implants for patients with TMJ
- Lifestyle changes
Images provided by:
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Tinnitus.
American Tinnitus Association. Understanding the Facts.
Veterans Health Administration. New Treatment Options for Tinnitus Sufferers.
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