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Understanding Ringing in the Ear: Tinnitus

Are you hearing ringing, whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing sounds?  You may be suffering from tinnitus.

What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears which can only be heard by the affected individual.  It has also been described as whistling, hissing, buzzing or pulsing in the ear.  These sounds may come and go; however, most sufferers experience symptoms 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The effects range from slight annoyance to severe disruption of everyday life.  The American Tinnitus Association estimates that over 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus.

Tinnitus Treatment
Due to the personal and unique nature of each tinnitus condition, proper evaluation and specialized treatment is necessary.  Although there isn’t a single cure for tinnitus, hearing healthcare professionals are experienced at providing individual solutions on a case-by-case basis.  After completing a hearing test, your professional may refer you to an otolaryngologist for further examination.

In many cases, the distressing combination of tinnitus and hearing loss can be relieved with advanced hearing technology.  While worn, a hearing system can restore ambient sounds and help eliminate the effects of tinnitus.  An electronic device call a Masker may also be worn to distract from the ringing sensation.  Maskers fit in the ear much like hearing aids and produce low-level sounds.

Your hearing healthcare professional will also evaluate other treatment options, including drug therapy and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT).  Your professional can explain the possible side-effects of various medications with you.  Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) combines low-level, steady background sounds played through a device with intensive counseling.  TRT is an involved process that can take 12-24 months to reduce the effects of tinnitus.  

Causes of Tinnitus may include:Noise-induced hearing loss and nerve damageA buildup of earwaxSome prescription and over-the-counter medicationsEar infections or eardrum ruptureHead and neck traumaCardiovascular problems, such as hypertension. The most important step you can take to find relief from tinnitus is to speak with a hearing healthcare professional and complete a thorough hearing evaluation.

Source:  American Tinnitus Association

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