Tinnitus is a noise, which sounds like ringing, roaring, whistling or buzzing in the ears.
There are several causes for this including excess wax build up, trauma and damage to the eardrum or diseases of the inner ear. It can also be caused by an increase in blood flow in the adjacent internal carotid artery. Tinnitus may be intermittent, continuous or pulsatile i.e. in rhythm with the heart beat.
It is quite common to have a history of other ear problems with this condition and there is frequently an associated hearing loss.
Testing for a sensorineural hearing loss is normally carried out to assess nerve damage as a possible cause. Also investigating the arterial system with carotid and vertebral arteriograms to exclude arterial obstructions, aneurysms or neoplasm's. A CT scan can exclude obstructions and foreign bodies in the temporal lobe.
Treatment depends on how well the patient tolerates the tinnitus, sometimes a cause can be found that can be treated as in infection or inflammation of the inner ear. However some people find relief by playing background music to mask the tinnitus or wearing a special hearing aid called a tinnitus masker which produces a more pleasant sound and therefore is more acceptable.
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