It is when this type of noise becomes intrusive into everyday life that it can become immensely irritating and becomes known as tinnitus. Tinnitus can be temporary or permanent, and might be of low or high frequency. Sometimes people notice that the intensity of the noise can alter according to various activities such as exercise, drinking of coffee or alcohol and other stimuli.
“Children can also suffer from tinnitus, which can be frightening for them when they do not understand what is happening,” he says.
Tinnitus is generally divided into two types — noises that can be heard by somebody examining the patient is called objective tinnitus which may be caused by spasm of small muscles in the middle ear or by abnormalities in the blood vessels in and around the ear. The noise that can only be heard by the patient is called subjective tinnitus which is the most common type.
Tinnitus is often, but not always, linked to a hearing loss because it is possible that a damaged hearing cell might give rise to random noises which we hear as tinnitus. Hearing loss is not the only cause of tinnitus, but it occurs in many people who do have some problems with their hearing, even if it is only mild and perhaps unnoticed by the patients themselves. Investigations usually include hearing tests, and can also involve blood tests and radiological investigations (x-rays or scans). Very rarely a more serious condition will be found, such as a tumor of the Auditory nerve which will be directly addressed.
Fortunately, the majority of patients who suffer from tinnitus will either find it gets better by itself, or they will learn to tolerate noise after a few weeks or months.
Generally, the treatment of tinnitus falls into two main areas. Firstly tinnitus counseling which is a system whereby the cause of tinnitus is clearly explained and the approach to understanding and controlling its significance in the daily life is clarified. Second is the use of mechanical devices such as hearing aids.
“It is estimated that 30-40 per cent of population will suffer from tinnitus at one point in their life, particularly if they have hearing loss.”
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