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Should You See A Doctor For Ringing In Your Ears?

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Imagine a constant pitch in the background, sometimes drowned out by other noise, but always there and especially bothersome when things get quiet. Maybe you do experience this unpleasant sensation known as tinnitus. The  problem is common. But while it is usually harmless and incurable, there are some important considerations. 

By definition, tinnitus is the perception of noise without the presence of something making the noise outside of the body. Mostly, tinnitus comes from the brain as a tone or pitch. Rarely, a stimulus from within the head causes the perception of noise. This is usually a pulsing sensation. Tinnitus becomes more common with age, especially after 50. 

Causes of Tinnitus

Most all the time, tinnitus that presents as a persistent tone just happens with no identifiable cause. A myriad of lesser common causal conditions also make the list as possibilities in the consideration of tinnitus. 

Should I See A Doctor?

Mostly, tinnitus is an unwanted, harmless symptom with no identifiable cause, though red flags should be considered as a reason for seeing a doctor and perhaps testing. Please see your doctor if you:

Is There Help for This Annoying Problem?

Follow-up studies on adults with tinnitus found the tinnitus present in over 80% at five years after diagnosis. Nearly half reported that the symptoms were the same or worse. Fortunately, however, those with the most annoying symptoms reported to a high degree that symptoms had improved with time.

Uncommonly, fixing the underlying problem (wax removal, improving anemia or treating high blood pressure) can fix the tinnitus. The hope with tinnitus is that the brain will eventually "tune out" the symptoms.

The most annoying aspect of tinnitus for most is the adverse affect on sleep. Adding white noise in the form of crickets chirping or ocean sounds can distract people away from the tinnitus symptoms during initiation of sleep. Unfortunately, correction of hearing loss does not improve the symptoms of tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a common, annoying problem.  In the vast majority the ringing is the problem in and of itself with no cause or need to worry.  Certain red flag symptoms associated with tinnitus, however, should be evaluated by a doctor to rule out serious underlying disease.

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