Any ringing, swishing or some other noise that is not provoked with some external sound but only heard in the ears or the head is called tinnitus. The name comes from Latin, because the word tinnitus means “ringing”. Tinnitus is usually a minor problem but there are some cases associated with more serious medical conditions and there are more than 35 millions of people in the United States suffering from this problem.
Patients suffering from this problem are in most cases the only people who can actually hear anything. The noise may come from any part of the ears (the outer, middle or inner ear) or can be caused by some abnormalities in the brain. There are some sounds known as normal sounds which can be heard if a person spends some time in well isolated room. During our normal daily routine, we are not aware of these sounds and we don’t notice them at all.
- In some situations, ear wax accumulated in the ear or ears or some foreign bodies (for instance some insect in the ear) may suppress background sounds of our environment. People tend to respond to this, noticing so-called normal sounds coming from our body and hear them as tinnitus.
- Ringing or noise in the ear or ears may also be provoked by problems of the middle ear bones or ear drum. Any infection, fluid buildup or disease that affects these structures in the ear can lead to tinnitus.
- Exposure to loud noise, firearms or extremely loud music is harmful for the ears. Effects to the ears may be seen as ringing noise (tinnitus) as well as damage or loss of hearing.
- Older patients are frequently found out to suffer from tinnitus caused by the problem associated with the heating nerve and their problem is often chronic. Hearing nerve is located in the inner part of the ear and if its tiny endings get damaged, the person may suffer from chronic tinnitus.
- Medications such as Aspirin and diseases like Meniere’s syndrome, aneurism in the brain or some brain tumor are also known to cause noise in the ears.
How to Treat Tinnitus?
When you notice any changes in your hearing, your best bet is to consult the doctor and get proper diagnosis. Doctor will be able to identify the cause of the ringing in the ears and advise appropriate treatment for that problem.
There is no specific treatment for this type of ear problem. Sometimes it resolves without any particular therapy, but some patients may have to live with it for good, since there is nothing that could be done about the ringing.
Some specialists recommend taking niacin to treat ringing in the ears, but it has not been proven to work for tinnitus treatment. High doses of gabapentin (Gabarone, Neuorntin) may decrease the irritation of the patients provoked by this problem, but it doesn’t affect the noise itself. Acamprosate (Campral) is also used in tinnitus patients with 87% success rate in Brazil. Studies regarding the use of this drug in the therapy of tinnitus are ongoing in the United States.