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WHAT IS TINNITUS?

Tinnitus is the name given to describe the sensation of any sound in the head or ears. In a mild form tinnitus is extremely common. Almost everyone gets a ringing in the ears after being exposed to very loud sounds, such as at a music concert. About 10% of the adult population has tinnitus frequently or constantly.
 
Tinnitus may be described as many different sounds – perhaps ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming – which can be perceived in different ways. For some people it can even sound like music or singing.The noise or noises can vary from being hardly audible to a noise as loud as a raised voice. Sometimes it can beat in time with your pulse (this is known as pulsatile tinnitus). For some people, even quiet tinnitus can still be heard in a noisy background. Tinnitus may be continuous, or interrupted by periods of quiet. Tinnitus can occur in many different ways.
 
It can be sensed as a single sound or noise in one ear, or in both ears – and a different sound or noise in each ear. It may also sound as if it is coming from several locations inside the head. It may become worse or better at different times of the day. It may change in pitch or even come and go at random. Some people say they have difficulty going to sleep or sleeping because of the tinnitus, whilst others say that sleep is the only relief they get from it. The older we become, the more liable we become to hearing loss and tinnitus.The natural ‘wear and tear’ on the ears can be accelerated considerably by a noisy environment.The damage is temporary at first, but if the ears are not adequately protected, this will quickly become permanent.
 
Many of the causes of tinnitus are not fully understood, but some are well known including prolonged exposure to noise over 90db, exposure to very loud noise like a firework, illness and the effects of stress or trauma.
 
Tinnitus is located inside the brain's auditory nerves/system. It has nothing to do with your ears or hearing. Tinnitus is described as a sound without an external stimulus. It seems to be a sensation from inside the brain which we seem to be able to hear as if an external noise like a whistling kettle or fan whirling away.
 
A small percentage of people suffer hearing loss and have tinnitus as well. However, many people who have a hearing loss do not experience tinnitus and some deaf people with no hearing have reported tinnitus. There has been reports of people having an operation to remove their ears/hearing organs. Following the operation they still experienced tinnitus.
 
Whislt there is no immediate cure, the use of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) offers some a way to manage their tinnitus. Others use a noise generator which gives 'white' noise to disguise the sound and others prefer to find their own strategies using the support of others.
 
The cautionary note is an internet  search for tinnitus cures. There are sites offering creams to rub behind your ears, candles to stick  in your ears, a book of advice (which you can free from this site's FAQs) and oil to drip down the outer ear. These are often oversea sites and they will charge for their 'cure'. Better to refer to creditable sites like the British Tinnitus Association and Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RIND).  There are a number of other links on the FAQs page.
 
 
 

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