When Dinesh Thakur came to me with a sudden onset constant sound in his left ear of one day's duration I was apprehensive. However, a quick look into his ear canal showed me that ear wax had been pushed deep inside and was touching his eardrum (he had tried to clean his ears with cotton swabs the previous day - a habit we forbid all the time- and managed to push his ear wax deeper). I took out the ear wax with a suction machine and the sound in his ears went away immediately! He went away relieved and happy!
Not every story ends so happily because treating Tinnitus can be frustrating for both the sufferer and the doctor.
Tinnitus is defined as the sound you hear inside your ear in the absence of an external stimulus. That is, the ear hears a sound which nobody around is hearing - the sound emanates from within the ear itself.
Tinnitus can be of many types - continuous /intermittent, low frequency/ high frequency/ multiple frequencies, pulsatile/ not pulsatile, single ear/ both ears, associated with hearing loss/ normal hearing and many others.
The common causes of tinnitus are
- ear infection
- drug induced
- tumours - in the ear or in the brain
However, in a large majority of cases, no cause can be found. The patient just wakes up one morning with the sound in the ears.
Apart from a thorough ENT examination, work up usually includes an Audiogram ( a hearing test) and an MRI of the brain.
Treatment of Tinnitus can be difficult. Though many drugs have been tried none has been found to be very successful - however, each patient has to be evaluated independently and appropriate treatment options offered.
In the event, all treatment options fail we try Tinnitus Retraining Therapy as well as use devices like a "Tinnitus Masker" to drown out the noxious sound.
Some advice for all tinnitus sufferers -
- Stop smoking - nicotine is strongly Tinnitogenic
- Avoid exposure to loud sounds - no going out to Pubs etc. Avoid listening to music on your headphones
- At night - Tinnitus is always worse at night because ambient noise levels go down - in that case keep some background noise like radio or TV (switched on at low volume) to inhibit the sound.
All the best.