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Tinnitus

  • What is Tinnitus?

    Tinnitus refers to ringing or noise in one or both ears that is not caused by an external sound. Only the affected person can hear it. Tinnitus is often a symptom of an underlying condition, such as presbycusis (hearing loss caused by old age) or ear trauma.

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

  • Tinnitus is commonly caused by hearing loss, which could result from normal ageing or from trauma to the cochlea. It is thought that the cochlea no longer sends normal impulses to the brain, and the brain then generates its own noise to compensate for the absence of normal sound signals.

    Most tinnitus occurs due to:

    • Damage to the hearing nerves in the inner ear, which are the nerves responsible for acute hearing
    • Exposure to excessively loud noises from clubs and concerts or from portable music devices, which can cause temporary or permanent tinnitus. This is considered the leading 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, and allergy
    • Underlying conditions, including middle ear infections, perforation of the ear drum, or middle ear fluid build-up
  • A person suffering from tinnitus often complains of the following symptoms:

    • Dizziness
    • Hearing loss
    • Ringing, roaring or buzzing sounds in one or both ears
  • There are different treatments available for tinnitus. Your ENT doctor needs to assess your condition to determine the underlying cause and suggest the treatment that suits you best. 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 other competing sounds such as a ticking clock or running water in order to mask the ringing noise
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