Medical Video: Ears 101 : How to Make My Ears Quit Ringing
In some of the oldest medical records in history, people have complained about the buzz in their ears. In the past, Assyrians poured rose extract into the patient's ear through a bronze tube. The ancient Romans suggested pouring boiled earthworms and goose fat into the ears. Medieval Welsh doctors recommend their patients to tie two layers of hot toast in both ears.
Modern medicine calls it tinnitus, and of course the treatment of ringing ears no longer involves earthworms and toast.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a sensation of hearing ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping, whistling, screaming, or other imaginary sounds. Sound may be heard in one ear or both, from inside the head, or from a distance. The ringing may always be heard or arises sinking, stabilizing or pulsing. Sound can also vary in loudness level.
Ringing ears are a normal condition and rarely become a symptom of a serious underlying condition. About one in every three people who complain of ringing ears don't have a clear problem with their ears or hearing. Almost everyone has had tinnitus for a short time after being exposed to very loud noise. For example, attending a music concert can trigger a temporary ringing in the ears.
Ringing in the ear will often worsen when background noise is very low, so you may be most aware of noise in your ears when alone in a quiet room or at night when you are going to sleep. Musculoskeletal factors - tightening your jaw, clenching your teeth, or straining your neck muscles - can sometimes make you hear more clearly. In addition, tinnitus can worsen in some people if they drink alcohol, smoke, drink caffeinated drinks, or eat certain foods. For reasons that are not yet fully clear, stress and fatigue also seem to aggravate ringing in the ears.
However, in rare cases (10% of cases), ringing can be very damaging, causing difficulty sleeping and concentrating, even depression.
Why do the ears ring in a quiet place?
Before we can understand how and why we experience ringing ears, we need to know how we can hear.
Sound waves travel through the ear canal to the middle and inner ear, where the hair cells in the cochlea detect vibrations and convert them into electrical signals to be carried by the auditory nerve to the brain. But, this process is not without hard work. If you've ever tried to run in a swimming pool, you know it's much more difficult than running on land thanks to the flow resistance and friction of the water. The same principle also occurs in your ears because the inner ear is filled with fluid. But this obstacle is helped by the role of hair outside the cochlea.
Like deep hair cells, outer hair also detects sound waves but instead of sending a group of signals to the brain, their job is to loosen and contract together with the vibrations they get. As a result, the outer hair cell is able to cancel friction and actually strengthen the sound to multiples of one hundred to a thousand. Thanks to the outer hair cells, our hearing sensitivity increases - especially in the higher frequency ranges.
Outer hair cells can produce their own vibrations. When these cells re-amplify the vibration, this process is intended to strengthen the sound frequency that is quieter than the loud one. This feedback control allows us to filter incoming sounds to get the most important information, so we are not overwhelmed by meaningless noise. This mechanism usually works well, without you being aware of a difference in your hearing.
However, the biological system of the body is not always perfect. It's as simple as experiencing a new sound that it can even interfere with the smoothness of the sound journey and force it to repeat its work to adjust. When this happens, these voices become clear. You really can hear it. This is what we consider to be the condition of ringing ears, aka tinnitus. Noise can also occur when hair cells are damaged - due to whiplash injury or side effects of drugs - so that circuits in the brain are unable to receive the signals they expect. The sound signal finally circulates in the ear to produce a constant ringing. That is why complaints of ringing ears do not disappear even after a person's hearing nerve is removed. Tinnitus can also occur in people who have Ménière's disease (the cause of hearing loss and triggers of vertigo) and otosclerosis (abnormal bone growth in the middle ear).
The ringing in the ears does not always come from the ear. Our bodies usually produce sounds (called somatic sounds) that we usually don't pay attention to because we focus on listening to sounds from outside. Anything that blocks normal hearing can bring somatic sounds to our attention. For example, you might experience noise in your head when a pile of earwax blocks the outer ear.
How do you get rid of annoying ringing in the ears?
In many cases, ringing in the ear will improve gradually. The ear has an automatic mechanism to correct problems and get rid of this unpleasant ringing. There is a nerve in the ear that tells the hearing nerve and / or hair cells to stop the act. It takes at least 30 seconds for this mechanism to start repairs and send messages that the brain needs to suppress ringing. After a nerve message is sent and received, mortal sounds will fade.
You can find out that this reaction has occurred because it is often accompanied by a slight decrease in hearing sensitivity (such as the background noise or the environment around us hearing suddenly becomes calmer), followed by feeling full in the ear. It usually takes about a minute for this process to complete.
If the cause of your tinnitus can be found, a treatment specifically targeted for this condition can help restore your tinnitus - for example, lifting a pile of earwax. However, frequent tinnitus continues after the underlying condition has been treated. In cases like this, other therapies - both conventional and alternative - such as sound therapy, CBT, or tinnitus training therapy (TRT) can provide a calming solution either by shrinking or masking unwanted sounds. You can also use independent tips, such as relaxation techniques or healthy sleep actions, to help manage your complaints.
At present there is not one definite treatment for ringing ears that works effectively evenly for everyone. However, research to find effective treatment continues.
When to go to the doctor about complaints of ringing in the ears?
You should see a doctor if you constantly or often hear sounds such as buzzing, ringing, or humming in your ear. The doctor can examine your ears to see if the ringing problem may be caused by an easily treatable condition, such as an ear infection or earwax buildup. Doctors can also do a few simple checks to see if you have a hearing loss.
Continuous, stable and high-pitched ringing ears generally indicate problems in the hearing system and require an audit test by an audiologist. Pulsed tinnitus (ringing goes hand in hand with the heartbeat) requires immediate medical evaluation, especially if noise often occurs or persists. An MRI or CT scan may be needed to check for possible tumors or vascular abnormalities.
If you are often exposed to loud noise at work or at home, it is important to reduce the risk of hearing loss (or further hearing loss) by using protectors such as earplugs or the like.
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