Tinnitus

If you hear ringing, clicking, popping, buzzing, roaring, whistling, or hissing that other people around you don't hear, you may think you're going crazy. But you probably have a condition called tinnitus (pronounced TIN-i-tus or tin-NIGHT-us), which affects an estimated 30 to 50 million Americans. The word comes from the Latin tinnire, which means "to tinkle or ring like a bell." Some people hear continual ringing; for others, the ringing may go away for hours or days, but then return. The sounds may be high or low in pitch, in one or both ears. Most people with tinnitus learn to ignore it, but others may have trouble working, sleeping, and enjoying normal activities.

Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom of some quirk in the ear, auditory nerve (which transmits sound signals), or brain. It often occurs along with hearing loss (both age-related and from repeated exposure to loud noises). It may also be triggered or worsened by other conditions, including otosclerosis (hardening of the middle and inner ear bones), Meniere's disease (a disease of the inner ear), ear wax buildup, infections, hypertension, diabetes, head and neck injuries, medications (for example, aspirin and certain beta-blockers, antidepressants, and antibiotics), and emotional stress.

If you think you have tinnitus, see your doctor. You may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (an otolaryngologist) and an audiologist who will check your hearing. Sometimes, the ringing can be silenced by treating an underlying condition - for example, by curing an ear infection, removing ear wax, or switching medications. But in most cases, the best you can do is try to make the sounds less noticeable and leam to cope.

Here are ways to manage tinnitus. Some may work better for you than others.

By the way: Ginkgo biloba, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, magnets, hypnosis, and acupuncture are just some of the many unproven remedies that have been suggested for tinnitus.