Ringing Ears and Tinnitus
Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, can range from mildly and occasionally annoying to all-consuming irritation. Tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss from being around loud noises, such as being at a concert or near a construction area. There are causes of tinnitus, however, that have nothing directly to do with the ear itself.
Tinnitus can be described as a sensation or sound that mimics a high-pitched tone, a wooshing sound, a clicking, or any number of perceived sounds. In many cases the sound is mentally perceived rather than felt through hearing, so it can be particularly difficult to diagnose.
Elderly people often experience tinnitus as part of the natural hearing loss that occurs during the aging process. Tinnitus can be also caused by hearing loss due to an excessively noisy environment. Individuals that work in loud factories, for instance, can develop tinnitus and hearing loss over time, sometimes resulting in a long term duration of tinnitus. Other people experience tinnitus after short loud noise exposures, such as near an explosion or concert, and tinnitus lasts for a short time of a day or two.
Buildup of ear wax within the ear canal can also cause ringing in the ears, and can be exaggerated by being in a dusty or debris-laden environment.
Certain medications can also contribute to hearing loss, causing noise exposure to be much more damaging. Drugs such as antibiotics, diuretics, and some drugs used to treat cancer can cause damage to the ear, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus.
Tinnitus can be caused by many other factors. People with untreated high blood pressure often exhibit signs of tinnitus, as well as people with atherosclerosis. Constriction of blood vessels in the head and neck may increase the presence of symptoms of tinnitus.
Some mental conditions such as depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can cause tinnitus due to changes in serotonin levels in the brain.
There is no cure for tinnitus, but many people respond well to treatment.
In patients with hearing loss, a hearing aid may help in reducing the perceived ringing in the ears. For others, white noise is helpful in drowning out the sound of ringing if the ringing prevents sleep and greatly interferes with daily activities. Special devices placed within the ear called maskers are available to help tinnitus sufferers to be able to drown out the sound.
Medications that cause ringing can sometimes be changed to prevent tinnitus. People with depression or PTSD can be placed on Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which will help to treat their tinnitus. Other causes can be treated by addressing the root issue. Blood pressure and atherosclerosis should be examined and medicated properly to reduce tinnitus.