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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tinnitus and its causes

 [Extracted from the web page of on Tinnitus]

Tinnitus is a ringing, swishing, or other type of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head. Most of us will experience tinnitus or sounds in the ears at some time or another.

Tinnitus can be extremely disturbing to people who have it. In many cases it is not a serious problem, but rather a nuisance that may go away. However, some people with tinnitus may require medical or surgical treatment. Twelve million Americans have tinnitus, and one million experience it so severely it interferes with their daily activities.

Tinnitus can arise in any of the four sections of the hearing system: the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, and the brain. Some tinnitus or "head noise" is normal. A number of techniques and treatments may be of help, depending on the cause.
  • Some of the most common include a sound of crickets or roaring, buzzing, hissing, whistling, and high-pitched ringing.

  • Other types of tinnitus include a clicking or pulsatile tinnitus (the noise accompanies your heartbeat).

  • The most common type of tinnitus is known as subjective tinnitus, meaning that you hear a sound but it cannot be heard by others.

  • A much more uncommon sort is called objective tinnitus, meaning your doctor may sometimes actually hear a sound when he or she is carefully listening for it.

    Tinnitus Causes
Tinnitus is not a disease in itself but rather a reflection of something else that is going on in the hearing system or brain.

  • Probably the most common cause for tinnitus is hearing loss. As we age, or because of trauma to the ear (through noise, drugs, or chemicals), the portion of the ear that allows us to hear, the cochlea, becomes damaged.

    • Current theories suggest that because the cochlea is no longer sending the normal signals to the brain, the brain becomes confused and essentially develops its own noise to make up for the lack of normal sound signals. This, then is interpreted as a sound, tinnitus.

    • This tinnitus can be made worse by anything that makes our hearing worse, such as ear infection or excess wax in the ear.

    • Tinnitus caused by ear trauma is usually noticed in both ears, because both ears are usually exposed to the same noises, drugs, and other influences
    • Loud noise exposure is a very common cause of tinnitus today, and it often damages hearing as well. Unfortunately, many people are unconcerned about the harmful effects of excessively loud noise from firearms, high intensity music, or other sources.

      Ten million Americans have suffered irreversible noise-induced hearing loss, and 30 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day, according to the NIDCD.
  • Other causes of tinnitus include drugs such as aspirin (if overused), aminoglycoside antibiotics (a powerful form of infection-fighting drug), and quinine.
  • Meniere's disease includes dizziness, tinnitus, and fullness in the ear or hearing loss that can last for hours, but then goes away. This disease is actually caused by a problem in the ear itself. The tinnitus is merely a symptom.
  • A rare cause of subjective tinnitus includes a certain type of brain tumor known as an acoustic neuroma. The tumors grow on the nerve that supplies hearing and can cause tinnitus. This type of tinnitus is usually only noticed in one ear, unlike the more common sort caused by hearing loss usually seen in both ears.
  • Causes of objective tinnitus are usually easier to find.
    • Pulsatile tinnitus is usually related to blood flow, either through normal or abnormal blood vessels near the ear. Causes of pulsatile tinnitus include pregnancy, anemia (lack of blood cells), overactive thyroid, or tumors involving blood vessels near the ear. Pulsatile tinnitus can also be caused by a condition known as benign intracranial hypertension-an increase in the pressure of the fluid surrounding the brain.
    • Clicking types of objective tinnitus can be caused by jaw joint misalignment (TMJ) problems or muscles of the ear or throat "twitching."

      Tinnitus Symptoms

      With tinnitus, you hear a noise that no one around you hears. This noise is usually a buzzing or ringing type sound, but it may be a clicking or rushing sound that goes along with your heartbeat. The sound is sometimes accompanied by hearing loss and dizziness in a syndrome known as Meniere's disease.

      When to Seek Medical Care

      Most newly noticed tinnitus should be evaluated by a physician. Because tinnitus is usually a symptom of something else, if it begins suddenly, see your doctor. This is particularly important if the tinnitus is only heard on one side.

      Although the majority of cases of tinnitus are not caused by any acute problems, certain symptoms need to be evaluated to determine whether or not a more serious medical condition is causing the symptoms.

    • Any time that tinnitus comes on suddenly, particularly in one ear or is associated with hearing loss, seek an immediate evaluation. Sudden hearing loss is often accompanied by tinnitus, and there are medications that may help to restore that hearing. Also certain types of tumors can cause sudden hearing loss and tinnitus that warrant an evaluation.
  • Tinnitus that is pulsatile (in rhythm with your heartbeat) and comes on suddenly should also be checked relatively rapidly. In very rare instances, this sort of tinnitus can develop because of an aneurysm (a bulging of the wall of a blood vessel) near the ear or because of the sudden onset of very high blood pressure.
  • Any time tinnitus is noticed in association with changes in personality, difficulty speaking or walking, or with any other movement problem, you should be evaluated for the possibility of a stroke.

    Medical Treatment

    Treatment for tinnitus depends on the underlying cause of the problem.

  • In the majority of cases, tinnitus is caused by damage to the hearing organ. In these cases, there is normally no need for treatment other than reassurance that the tinnitus is not being caused by another treatable illness.
  • In the very rare instance where the tinnitus is extremely bothersome, there are a number of treatment options.
    • Some of the most helpful include antianxiety or antidepressant medication and sometimes maskers-small devices like hearing aids that help to block out the sound of the tinnitus with "white noise."
    • For people who are bothered by tinnitus only when trying to sleep, the sound of a fan, radio, or white noise machine is usually all that is required to relieve the problem.
    • Most people with tinnitus find that their symptoms are worse when under stress, so relaxation techniques can be helpful.
    • Avoiding caffeine is advised, as it may worsen symptoms.
    • Biofeedback may help or diminish tinnitus in some patients.
    • Avoid aspirin or aspirin products in large quantities
    • Hearing loss worsens the effect of tinnitus, so protection of hearing and avoiding loud noises is very important in preventing worsening of the symptoms.
  • In cases where the tinnitus is caused by one of the other rare problems (such as a tumor or aneurysm), treatment of the tinnitus involves fixing the main issue. Although this does not always resolve the tinnitus, some people note relief of their symptoms. Only a very few cases of tinnitus are caused by identifiable, repairable medical conditions.
    From the Editor Desk

    I have been treating my patients, who are experiencing tinnitus with Acupuncture and when necessary, I will accompany my treatment with 'moxibustion' too. In TCM, we diagnose tinnitus and relate it to the weak or dyfunctions of the kidneys because the meridian of the Kidney/Urinary Bladder is connected to the ears. In most cases, we also include boiled herbal formulas to boost up the functions of the kidneys, added with some 'yeast' supplements to nourish the nerves serving the ears. Often, it is found that patients who are having running/stuffy nose will trigger such problem more rapidly. Such problem will be further aggravated should patients have been taking antibiotics to counter against their common cold, or in the event of any external or internal injuries, the patients might be consuming anti-inflammatory medications.

    Nevertheless, acupuncture will help effectively, in lessening such teething nuisance especially at night when the patients will not be able to sleep. One must seek the help of a good acupuncturist and not only will it resolve the problem, the patients can be made calm, as well as continuing with a better health.

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