Tinnitus: Why are my ears ringing?

Tinnitus is usually a noise that a person hears consciously. The sound does not come from any source outside the body. Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying problem. The most common form is a high-pitched ringing in the ears. Other forms of sounds are also heard such as ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing and humming. The sound may vary from a low roar to a high squeal. Sometimes the sound is so loud that it interferes with one’s ability to hear properly or concentrate. Tinnitus can be perpetual or intermittent. There are two kinds of tinnitus, subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus includes sound in the ears that only the affected person can hear. It is caused by problems in the inner, middle or outer ear. It might also be caused by complications in the auditory nerves and auditory pathways. In very few cases the sound is objective which means other people can also hear the sound, especially a doctor when examining a patient. This type of noise is caused by cardiovascular or musculoskeletal movements or because of a middle-ear bone condition. Objective tinnitus is of a more serious nature.

Symptoms of tinnitus include non-auditory, internal, intermittent or continuous low or high-pitched sounds in one or both ears. It is advised to consult a doctor when tinnitus develops after an upper respiratory infection such as cold and it does not improve within a week. One should also consult the doctor if there are hearing loss and dizziness.

There are a number of causes behind tinnitus. Age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noise, earwax blockage and ear-bone changes are some of the causes. Some of the less common causes of tinnitus include Meniere’s disease, TMJ disorders, head or neck injuries, Acoustic neuroma, Eustachian tube dysfunction and muscle spasms in the inner ear.

Fatigues, stress, insomnia, depression, anxiety, lack of concentration and memory problems are some of the complications that arise from tinnitus.

In most of the conditions, tinnitus arises from something that cannot be prevented. However, some precautionary measures can be undertaken to prevent certain kinds of tinnitus. As long exposure to loud noises can lead to hampered hearing, using hearing protection and turning down loud volumes can prevent tinnitus. Regular exercise, eating right and developing other healthy habits to keep steady cardio-vascular health can also prevent tinnitus.

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