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Tinnitus

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VOL: 102, ISSUE: 12, PAGE NO: 27

WHAT IS IT?

 

WHAT IS IT?
- Tinnitus is the term that describes noises in the ears and/or ‘in the head’ that have no external source. These noises are described as ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming.

 

 

- People can be affected in one or both ears, or feel that the noises are emanating from somewhere inside their head.

 

 

- Mild tinnitus is quite common but around one in 200 people will have serious tinnitus, which can damage their quality of life.

 

 

CAUSES
- Most cases result from problems in the sensorineural system, which is involved in transmitting signals from the inner ear to the brain.

 

 

- Tinnitus is more common in older people as it is associated with hearing loss.

 

 

- People who work in loud environments are at risk.

 

 

- Other possible causes of tinnitus include:

 

 

- Otosclerosis (abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear due to otospongiosis);

 

 

- Meniere’s disease;

 

 

- Ear infections;

 

 

- High doses of certain drugs, including aspirin and some antibiotics;

 

 

- Otitis media;

 

 

- Excess wax;

 

 

- Acoustic neuroma;

 

 

- Anaemia;

 

 

- Hypothyroidism;

 

 

- Head trauma;

 

 

- High blood pressure;

 

 

- Disorders of the heart and blood vessels, particularly those in the head;

 

 

- Autoimmune disorders.

 

 

SYMPTOMS
- The main symptom is the noises people hear. Some patients find it hard to locate the exact location of these noises, which can be low, medium orhigh in pitch.

 

 

- There may be a single noise or many different noises.

 

 

- Noise may be present at all times or come and go intermittently.

 

 

- Symptoms affect individuals differently - some people with mild tinnitus can live quite happily with the noises, whereas others who are more badly affected may find the noises extremely irritating and stressful. This can have a detrimental effect on their quality of life.

 

 

DIAGNOSIS
- Diagnosis is usually made on the basis of symptoms.

 

 

- Some tests, including hearing and balance tests, can help to determine the diagnosis.

 

 

- An MRI scan can help determine if there are abnormalities in the inner ear.

 

 

TREATMENT
- First-line treatment is to treat any underlying condition, such as excessive wax or ear infection.

 

 

- If the person has hearing difficulties as well as tinnitus a hearing aid can help by blocking out the noise of tinnitus.

 

 

- There are devices that look like hearing aids but work by producing sounds to mask the noise of the tinnitus.

 

 

- No one drug has yet been designed specifically to treat tinnitus. Certain types of anxiolytics, antidepressants, antihistamines and anticonvulsants have been used successfully to treat tinnitus.

 

 

- The symptoms of tinnitus can result in psychological problems for some people, such as depression and anxiety. Medication and counselling can help.

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