Tinnitus is most often described as a ringing in the ears, even though no external sound is present. Tinnitus can be sounds that are so soft you may not notice them or so loud they block out sounds coming from external sources.Tinnitus may be present all the time, or it may come and go.
Tinnitus isn’t a disease. It’s a symptom of several medical conditions.
People who have tinnitus may have trouble sleeping or concentrating. Living with tinnitus can make people feel angry, frustrated and depressed.
Most people who have tinnitus have subjective tinnitus, or tinnitus that only you can hear. The noises of tinnitus may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and you may hear it in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it interferes with your ability to concentrate or hear external sound.
However, tinnitus can also cause other types of phantom noises in your ears, including –
A number of health conditions can cause or worsen tinnitus. In many cases, an exact cause is never found.
▪︎ Common causes
In many people, it is caused by one of the following:
• Hearing loss.
There are tiny, delicate hair cells in your inner ear (cochlea) that move when your ear receives sound waves. This movement triggers electrical signals along the nerve from your ear to your brain (auditory nerve). Your brain interprets these signals as sound.
If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken — this happens as you age or when you are regularly exposed to loud sounds — they can “leak” random electrical impulses to your brain, causing such an irritating problem.
• Ear infection or ear canal blockage.
Your ear canals can become blocked with a buildup of fluid (ear infection), earwax, dirt or other foreign materials. A blockage can change the pressure in your ear, causing tinnitus.
• Head or neck injuries.
Head or neck trauma can affect the inner ear, hearing nerves or brain function linked to hearing. Such injuries usually cause tinnitus in only one ear.
A number of medications may cause or worsen the problem. Generally, the higher the dose of these medications, the worse tinnitus becomes. Often the unwanted noise disappears when you stop using these drugs.
Medications known to cause tinnitus include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and certain antibiotics, cancer drugs, water pills (diuretics), antimalarial drugs and antidepressants.
▪︎ Other causes
Less common causes includes other ear problems, chronic health conditions, and injuries or conditions that affect the nerves in your ear or the hearing center in your brain.
• Meniere’s disease.
• Eustachian tube dysfunction.
• Ear bone changes. Stiffening of the bones in your middle ear (otosclerosis) may affect your hearing and cause tinnitus.
• Muscle spasms in the inner ear.
• Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
• Acoustic neuroma or other head and neck tumors.
• Blood vessel disorders. Conditions that affect your blood vessels — such as atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, or kinked or malformed blood vessels — can cause blood to move through your veins and arteries with more force. These blood flow changes can cause tinnitus or make tinnitus more noticeable.
• Other chronic conditions. Conditions including diabetes, thyroid problems, migraines, anemia, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus have all been associated with tinnitus.
Risk factors –
Anyone can experience tinnitus, but these factors may increase your risk:
• Loud noise exposure. Loud noises, such as those from heavy equipment, chain saws and firearms, are common sources of noise-related hearing loss. Portable music devices, such as MP3 players, also can cause noise-related hearing loss if played loudly for long periods. People who work in noisy environments — such as factory and construction workers, musicians, and soldiers — are particularly at risk.
As you age, the number of functioning nerve fibers in your ears declines, possibly causing hearing problems often associated with tinnitus.
Men are more likely to experience tinnitus.
• Tobacco and alcohol use.
Smokers have a higher risk of developing tinnitus. Drinking alcohol also increases the risk of tinnitus.
• Certain health problems.
Obesity, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, and a history of arthritis or head injury all increase your risk of tinnitus.
The tinnitus can lead to –
• Physical exam
Physical examination will focus on the head and neck, and especially the ears, including the auditory canals and tympanic membranes. Since the sense of hearing is conducted through one of the cranial nerves , a careful neurologic exam also may be performed.
• Hearing test
An audiogram or hearing test may be performed to look for associated hearing loss in one or both ears.
Depending upon the suspected underlying cause of tinnitus, radiology tests may be performed to image the head and neck, including the structures of the ear. These imaging tests may include CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds.
Depending on the cause, its treatment may involve –
• prompt care for an ear infection
• discontinuing any medications that may be causing it
• removing earwax
• treating an underlying condition
• taking steps to manage or mask the sounds of tinnitus
• counseling to help with related issues, such as anxiety or depression
• treatment for hearing loss, if present
Ayurvedic Treatment –
According to Ayurveda, Vata aggravation is the leading cause of Tinnitus, which generates sound in the ear cavities. Therefore, the Tinnitus treatment in Ayurveda focuses on normalizing Vata Dosha.
Ayurveda therapies like
• Karna poorna.The herbal ear drops are used not only to clean the ears but also to provide a calming effect to the eardrums.
Instil 5 to 10 drops of warm oil of either sesame, olive, bael, apamarga, or dashamoola in both or either affected ear. Allow it to stay for some time and then clean the ear with an earbud. These oils in their warm state soften the ear wax and help in easy removal. When used regularly for a week, it clears Vayu disturbance and helps in alleviating its symptoms.
• Kaval and Gandusha. Kavala is gargling of medicated oils or liquids and Gandusha that implies withholding the medicated oil or liquid within the mouth without gargling for a certain amount of time. Performing either of this holds high significance in calming the vata doshas and minimizing the discomfort.
• Abhyanga. Massaging with warm sesame oil, mint oil or castor oil brings an instant cooling and calming sensation to the mind and body which helps in comforting the prana vayu thus treating tinnitus.
• Nasya. Instil 5 drops of a concoction of sesame oil infused with Vacha root, warmed to body heat at night and in the morning to get rid of the ringing sensation.
• Snehpaan, are beneficial for Tinnitus treatment.
Ayurvedic Formulations –
• Sarivadi Vati
• Saptamrita Loha
• Shadbindu Tail
• Anu Tail
• Bilwa Tail
Protecting your hearing is one of the best ways to avoid tinnitus. Start protecting your ears by thinking about all your regular activities. Here are some potential activities that may affect your hearing:
• At your workplace.
You may work in construction, landscaping or around loud machinery like an assembly line. Protect your hearing with earplugs.
• At exercise class.
Many gyms play loud music to motivate and move people through exercise. If that’s your situation, use earplugs to protect your ears. At the very least, do your workout away from the music’s source.
• At concerts and movie theatres.
This is another time it makes sense to use earplugs.
• Any time you use earbuds with your volume turned all the way up.
Protect your ears by keeping the volume low.
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