Tinnitus, in simple terms, is the sound heard from within the ears or head without any external source. The perceived sound can be of different types: ringing, hissing, buzzing, chirping, roaring, clicking or any other noise. Tinnitus can be loud, soft, high pitched, low pitched, unilateral (heard in one ear) or bilateral (heard in both ears). Tinnitus can be either subjective or objective:
- Subjective tinnitus: tinnitus which you or only the subject can hear. This can be caused due to problems in the outer ear, middle ear or inner ear. It can also be caused due to any problems in the hearing or auditory pathways.
- Objective tinnitus: tinnitus which your doctor can hear while examining. This is a rare condition which can be caused by blood vessel problems, muscle contractions or middle ear bone conditions.
It’s not always clear what exactly causes tinnitus. Some of the reasons are:
- Hearing loss
- Ear infections
- Blockage due to ear wax
- Certain medications
- Emotional stress
- Exposure to loud noise
- Head or ear injuries
Symptoms of tinnitus include a sensation of hearing sounds when no external sound is actually present. The sounds or noises can be of different types:
Diagnosis of tinnitus involves:
- Examination of ears, head and neck
- Audiological or hearing evaluation
- Examining tinnitus during movements such as eye movements
- Imaging procedures such as CT and MRI.
A possible way to prevent tinnitus is to avoid damage to the ear.
- Protect the ears from loud noises and everyday sounds like those of air coolers.
- Reduce anxiety and maintain your blood pressure.
- Protect ear from possible causes of hearing loss.
- Avoid medications that are likely to cause hearing loss or tinnitus.
The treatment for tinnitus involves treating the underlying causes or treatable conditions associated with it. It includes:
- Avoiding or changing medications if it is the cause.
- Ear wax removal if the wax blockage is causing tinnitus.
- Limit or avoid loud noises.
- Noise suppression measures can be adopted to treat tinnitus. It involves using an external device or aid which produces noise that suppresses the tinnitus and helps to focus out of the tinnitus.
- Medications are also available that reduce the severity of the symptoms.
- Lifestyle changes are also useful which includes measures like avoiding alcohol and managing stress.
- Counselling is also a part of tinnitus management.
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