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Tinnitus

  • What is Tinnitus?

    Tinnitus refers to ringing or noise in 1 or both ears that is not caused by an external sound – only the affected person can hear it. It is often a symptom of an underlying condition, like presbycusis (hearing loss caused by old age) or an ear injury.

    Tinnitus is a common problem affecting around 20% of adults and can range from a low roaring sound to a high, squealing pitch. Although it can be annoying, it is not a serious problem and can be treated.

  • Tinnitus is commonly caused by hearing loss, caused by ageing or injury to the cochlea (hearing organ). It is believed that the cochlea no longer sends normal impulses to the brain, which then creates its own noise to make up for the lack of sound.

    Most tinnitus occurs due to:

    • Damage to the hearing nerves in the inner ear, which are responsible for acute hearing
    • Exposure to too loud noises (from clubs, concerts, or portable music devices) which can cause temporary or permanent tinnitus. This is considered the main cause of tinnitus in young people and can often lead to hearing damage.
    • Other medical conditions, including meniere’s disease, circulatory disorders, cancer, diabetes, overactive thyroid, head and neck injury, or an allergy
    • Underlying conditions, including middle ear infections, a hole in the eardrum, or fluid buildup in the middle ear
  • A person suffering from tinnitus often experiences the following symptoms:

    • Dizziness
    • Hearing loss
    • Ringing, roaring or buzzing sounds in one or both ears
  • There are different treatments available for tinnitus. An ENT doctor will assess the condition to find the underlying cause and suggest the appropriate course of treatment. This may include:

    • Medications to improve blood circulation to the cochlea, and to treat associated depression. These can include antibiotics, antidepressants, aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs.
    • Reassurance, which might be enough and no treatment is needed
    • Relaxation exercises to manage muscles and circulation all over the body
    • Use of hearing aids that can help reduce tinnitus while the hearing aid is being worn
    • Using devices that produce white noise, like a ticking clock or running water, to cover up the internal noise
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