At some point or another, you may have experienced a case of ringing in the ears. The medical term for this is called tinnitus. Sure, it can be a bit annoying, but just how serious is it and why does it happen in the first place?
What Is It?
Tinnitus is noise or ringing in the ears. For most people, it’s a ringing sound, but for others it can be a whistling, buzzing, chirping, hissing, humming or squealing sound. It’s most noticeable and bothersome in a quiet environment.
There are two types of tinnitus: subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus – the most common form of tinnitus – is when you’re the only one who can hear the ringing in your ears. Objective tinnitus is when others can hear the sound coming from your ears. This is very rare and is usually caused by a blood vessel problem within your ears, which can be corrected.
One of the most common triggers of tinnitus is loud noise. If you’ve ever attended a loud concert or listened to your iPod or MP3 player too loud for a long period of time, chances are you probably experienced tinnitus for a couple of hours afterward. Long-term exposure to loud noise can lead to permanent damage.
Other triggers include:
- Medications, especially aspirin and antibiotics, taken in high doses
- Neurological disorder
- Excess earwax in your ear canal
- Age – tinnitus tends to worsen with age
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When To See Your Doctor
Usually, tinnitus is not a serious condition. In other words, you’re probably not going deaf. However, if you experience chronic tinnitus – when the ringing lasts more than six months – it’s time to see your doctor. A whopping 50 to 60 million Americans suffer from chronic tinnitus, which occurs more often in people older than age 55.
There are several things you can do to help reduce some of the symptoms of tinnitus:
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation – stress doesn’t cause tinnitus, but it can make it worse.
- Tinnitus is more bothersome when you’re in a quiet room, so try playing music, turning on the TV, or using a humidifier to help reduce the amount of noise you hear.
- Consider switching the medications you’re already taking.
- If you believe you have wax build up in your ears, see your doctor to have the ear wax removed.
- Many people notice that caffeine, nicotine and alcohol makes their tinnitus worse. If this is the case for you, avoid these triggers as much as possible.
- Hearing aids – If you’re experiencing hearing loss along with tinnitus, using a hearing aid might be helpful.
Visit the BlackDoctor.org Brain and Nervous System center for more articles.