Tinnitusis not an actual disease, but instead a symptom with many possible causes. It is experienced as a noise in the ear or head. This can be something like a swishing, humming, or ringing sound. This noise can be constant or intermittent. It may be experienced in one ear or both of them. The pitch of this noise can be quite low or very high. Tinnitus is often a subjective experience of sound. This means that nobody else will be able to hear it.
Tinnitus can be an unpleasant symptom that interferes with the ability of people to get the most from life. This condition can vary in severity. Most individuals will only experience a mild form of tinnitus that is easy to manage. Severe tinnitus can make it difficult to sleep or even to think clearly. This is a common condition that affects about one in five people over the ages of 65. There is debate about whether or not alcohol directly causes tinnitus, but it almost certainly can exacerbate the problem. Many of those who abuse alcohol will need to deal with the symptoms of this condition. Some individuals attempt to self-medicate with alcohol, to deal with tinnitus, and this can lead to hazardous drinking.
There are two types of tinnitus:
* Objective tinnitus is quite rare and it involves a noise that can be picked up on examination by a clinician. An example of this would be bruit. This is a sound made by blood as it tries to bypass an obstruction. Muscle spasms can also cause objective tinnitus.
* Subjective tinnitus is the most common form of the condition. The sound will not be detectable by anyone else. It can be caused by otologic disorders, oxotoxic drugs, or exposure to high noises. The problem can be in the inner, outer, or middle ear. It can also occur as a result of damage to the auditory nerves or the part of the brain that manages sound.
The symptoms of tinnitus involve hearing strange noises which can include:
* Ticking sound
* Roaring sound
As well as the above symptoms it is also common for people with tinnitus to have some type of hearing loss. Those with the condition may also experience the following:
* Musical hallucinations
* Memory problems
* Inability to concentrate
A number of causes for tinnitus have been identified including:
* Injury to the ear
* Certain medications
* Excessive ear wax
* A foreign object stuck inside the ear
* Exposure to loud noise
* Head injuries
* Meniere’s disease
* High blood pressure
* Ear bone changes
* Age-related tinnitus
* Neck injuries
* Alcohol withdrawal tinnitus
* Brain tumor
It is accepted that alcohol can cause tinnitus type noises in the ear, but it is less clear if it leads to chronic tinnitus. Some individuals experience audible hallucinations and tinnitus during alcohol withdrawals.
There is debate as to whether or not alcohol worsens tinnitus symptoms. One study in 1995 found that 22% of respondents reported that alcohol worsened their symptoms while 16% claimed that it improved things. It is suggested that drinking alcohol may temporarily relieve the symptoms, but that tinnitus will be worse the next day. There is the worry that individuals may begin to self-medicate with alcohol and that this could lead to dependency.
The treatment required for dealing with tinnitus will always depend on the exact underlying cause. In may only require something as simple as ear wax removal or a change of prescription medications. Those who have alcohol withdrawal related tinnitus will usually find that things will improve after a short time period.
In some cases it might not be possible to establish or treat the cause of tinnitus. The focus then will turn to managing the symptoms. There are no medications that will cure tinnitus but drugs such as certain types of antidepressants can improve things. There are also devices available that use noise suppression as a means to mask the troublesome sounds.
Anyone with tinnitus should be careful around alcohol. Even if drinking does offer some temporary relief this will come with a price the next day. It is understandable that people wish to escape the effects of tinnitus, but alcohol abuse will just make the situation much worse in the long term.
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