Tinnitus, pronounced TIN-i-tus, refers to a noise or a ringing in the ears. A common problem, tinnitus affects about one in five people at some point in their lives. Tinnitus could technically be called a disease, but it more accurate to think of it as a symptom of an underlying condition, such as ear injury, an infection, circulatory system disorder or age-related hearing loss.
Common tinnitus symptoms
Tinnitus involves the annoying sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. Tinnitus symptoms include these types of phantom noises in your ears:
Tinnitus suffers report these phantom noises in one or both of the ears, which may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high shriek. The sounds may be barely noticeable, or so loud it interferes with the ability to concentrate or hear. Tinnitus may come and go, or be present all of the time.
Should you see a doctor about your tinnitus?
If you have tinnitus symptoms that continue past a week and that bother you, see your doctor. If you have an illness, even a cold or flu, be aware of any tinnitus symptoms and be sure to make an appointment right away, so you can avoid any complications of the ear, nose and throat. Your doctor will probably refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (ENT) for further testing, while ruling out any immediate medical concerns.
Get a Diagnosis: There are two types of tinnitus
- Objective tinnitus: With this rare form of tinnitus your doctor can hear the same sounds you do when he or she does an examination. Objective Tinnitus is usually caused by an inner ear infection or an inner ear bone condition.
- Subjective tinnitus: This is by far the most common type of tinnitus, where only you can hear the sounds. Its primary causes are often medial issues such as hearing loss, ear problems in your outer, middle or inner ear, or by problems with the nerves where the part of your brain that interprets nerve signals as sound. Secondary or contributing causes are usually those related to lifestyle, such as food allergies, smoking, and medications and such.
What to do about tinnitus:
Although bothersome, in most cases tinnitus isn’t a sign of something serious, and for most people, it gets better by treating the underlying cause or causes. When a total cure isn’t possible, there are effective treatments that reduce or mask the noise, making tinnitus less noticeable.
Once you get a diagnosis from your doctor and eliminate any medical causes of tinnitus, there are lots of ways you can manage and minimize your symptoms. This requires patience and being committed to uncovering any possible contributing lifestyle factors. With time and perseverance you may be able to rid yourself of your symptoms for good; traditionally it takes about 1-6 weeks to reduce symptoms, and 6 months to 2 years to eliminate them.
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