What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is often described as ringing in the ears. It may also be described as the sound of hissing, escaping air, running water, whistling, buzzing, or humming noise.
What is the cause?
The exact cause of tinnitus is not known. Problems that can cause tinnitus or make it worse are wax buildup or foreign objects in the ear canal, ear or sinus infections, ear, head, or neck injury, otosclerosis (which is growth of the bone surrounding the middle and inner ear), exposure to loud noise or hearing loss due to aging. It could also be due to diseases of the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, tumours, depression and stress and thyroid disorders.
What is the diagnosis?
The doctor asks about symptoms and does an examination. Depending on the symptoms, the following tests may be done - hearing test, X-ray of the head, an angiography (blood vessel studies), CT or MRI scan of the head.
How is it treated?
Tinnitus usually lessens or goes away with time. If it persists, the following treatments are recommend -
- Medicines, including anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants, which can help adjust to the irritation of the tinnitus.
- Medicines, including antihistamines, anticonvulsants, an anaesthetics.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), which combines low-level, steady background sounds with counselling. This combination helps grow unaware of the sounds of tinnitus.
- Hearing aids for hearing loss
- Biofeedback, which is a relaxation technique that teaches one to control certain body functions such as pulse, muscle tension, and brain wave activity.
What is the prevention?
The common cause of tinnitus can be avoided by staying away from loud noises. One can try using ear protectors if in a noisy environment.