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Are your ears ringing? Tinnitus

Tinnitus (TIN-i-tus, also pronounced tih-NI-tus) is the perception of a ringing, buzzing, roaring or hissing sound in the ear when no external noise is present. It\'s a common problem that can be very annoying, but it\'s usually not a health threat. In some cases, it can interfere with the ability to concentrate or hear properly. Many adults will experience tinnitus as they get older.

Ear Specialists claim that most humans can hear that buzzing noise but have the ability to cancel it internally in the brain. But in some cases such mechanism, just doesn\'t work and the patient constantly makes the noise conscious involuntarily thus causing himself great permanent discomfort.

Tinnitus is usually due to irreversible inner ear damage. Two major causes are age-related hearing loss and damage to your inner ear from a trauma. It can also result from exposure to loud noise or from other medical conditions, so it\'s important to have an evaluation by your doctor.

Excessive earwax or an ear infection can cause or worsen tinnitus. (See Cleaning your ears: Be careful on page 4.) High doses of aspirin, other types of medications or large amounts of caffeine also can cause tinnitus. If your doctor recommends using aspirin in high doses on a daily basis, ask about alternatives. If you\'re taking other medications, ask your doctor whether any of them could cause or worsen your tinnitus. If your doctor prescribes medications to help ease the tinnitus, ask about possible side effects.

Self-care measures

To cope with tinnitus, these self-care measures may help:

  • Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol, which can aggravate the condition.
  • If you have a hearing aid, wear it. The better you hear the sounds you need to hear, the less you\'ll notice your tinnitus.
  • Consider covering up the ringing sound with an acceptable sound, such as low-level background music.
  • Consider buying a masker, a device that fits in your ear and produces white noise.
  • Other masking devices also are available — even CDs with light = background noise.
  • Get information on relaxation techniques.
  • Protect yourself from exposure to loud noises. If your tinnitus becomes worse or occurs along with hearing loss or dizziness, see your doctor for advice.