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Tinnitus is an auditory sensation not related to the perception of external stimuli, in another words, a noise in the ears or head; frequently described as a ringing, buzzing, humming, hissing etc. It is a fact, that everyone experiences this sensation several times in his/her life. Many have mild tinnitus that is not significant and thus, ignored easily. However, there are about 1 in 100 people that have tinnitus which severely affects their quality of life. In many cases the cause is not known. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that tinnitus is not a disease by itself rather, it is a symptom of abnormality or dysfunction and/or is related to another problem. For example, it is common for people with age-related deafness to also develop tinnitus. There is no magical cure which will take the noise away. However, there are many ways and techniques that can make the tinnitus less intrusive and troublesome.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can originate from any part of the ear as well as the brain. Sometimes, sounds from other body systems such as blood streams in the veins or arteries can be detected by the auditory system and perceived as tinnitus. It is important to understand that tinnitus is a normal phenomenon or a symptom of abnormality or disease but not a disease by itself. For example, it is normal for a person to experience tinnitus when staying a long time in a quiet place. Also, tinnitus can be as a result of wax accumulation in the outer ear, infection in the middle ear or due to a permanent hearing loss etc.

One of the most common causes of tinnitus is damage to the microscopic sensory hair cells in the inner ear. Getting older is generally accompanied with hearing loss, and as a result tinnitus. Today, loud noise exposure is a very common cause of tinnitus, and it often damages hearing as well. Some medications (for example, aspirin) and other diseases of the inner ear (Meniere's syndrome) can cause tinnitus. Tinnitus can, in very rare cases, be a symptom of such serious problems as a brain tumor (acoustic tumor).

How is tinnitus evaluated?

A comprehensive medical history, a physical examination, and an audiological evaluation are needed most of the time to determine accurately the tinnitus source. However, sometimes a series of special tests, such as the auditory brain stem response (ABR), a computer tomography scan (CT scan), or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) may be needed to rule out a tumor occurring on the hearing or balance nerve. These tumors are rare, yet they can cause tinnitus.

What is the treatment of tinnitus?

After a careful evaluation, the cause for tinnitus maybe identified and treated accordingly. In other cases when the cause for tinnitus could not be found or when the cause is not treatable, then, unconventional treatment methods -which are proven to be effective- would be applied. An essential part of the treatment is your own understanding of the tinnitus (what has caused it, and your options for treatment).

Is there anything to do to lessen intensity of the tinnitus?

Auditory system is one of the most delicate and sensitive mechanisms in the body. Since it is a part of the general nervous system, it is sensitive, to some degree, to things affecting the overall health of the individual (both physical and psychological). Therefore, it is advisable to make every effort to protect your auditory system and your body in general from harmful conditions, avoid anxiety and maintain a balanced healthy life.

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