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Tinnitus

Intro

Most newly noticed tinnitus   should be evaluated by a physician. Because tinnitus is usually a symptom of something else, if it begins suddenly, see your doctor. This is particularly important if the tinnitus is only heard on one side.

Although the majority of cases of tinnitus are not caused by any acute problems, certain symptoms need to be evaluated to determine whether or not a more serious medical condition is causing the symptoms.

Any time that tinnitus comes on suddenly, particularly in one ear or is associated with hearing loss  , seek an immediate evaluation. Sudden hearing loss is often accompanied by tinnitus, and there are medications that may help to restore that hearing. Also certain types of tumors can cause sudden hearing loss and tinnitus that warrant an evaluation.

Tinnitus that is pulsatile (in rhythm with your heartbeat) and comes on suddenly should also be checked relatively rapidly. In very rare instances, this sort of tinnitus can develop because of an aneurysm   (a bulging of the wall of a blood vessel) near the ear or because of the sudden onset of very high blood pressure  .

Any time tinnitus is noticed in association with changes in personality, difficulty speaking or walking, or with any other movement problem, you should be evaluated for the possibility of a stroke  .

Self-Care at Home

Most cases of tinnitus should be evaluated by an ear, nose, and throat physician before home treatment begins to be sure that the tinnitus is not caused by another treatable problem.

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Follow-up

It is important to follow the doctor's directions in obtaining further evaluations and tests. You may need an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist) or an audiologist for further testing. It is important to follow up on these recommendations when they are made to confirm that your tinnitus is not caused by another illness.

Prevention

The only real prevention for tinnitus is to avoid damaging your hearing. Most causes other than hearing loss do not have prevention strategies.

According to the American Tinnitus Association, there are several things you can do to protect yourself from excessive noise-related tinnitus:

Protect your hearing at work. Your work place should follow Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Wear ear plugs or earmuffs and follow hearing conservation guidelines set by your employer.

When around any noise that bothers your ears (a concert, sporting event, hunting) wear hearing protection or reduce noise levels.

Even everyday noises such as blow drying your hair or using a lawnmower can require protection. Keep ear plugs or earmuffs handy for these activities.

Outlook

Depending on the type of tinnitus, symptoms will tend to come and go over time. Stress level, diet, and exposure to noise can worsen tinnitus. Many people find their tinnitus annoying but can learn to adapt without difficulty. It is likely that if you have had tinnitus, you will have it again in the future.

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