Relief from the noise no one else hears
Rock and roll isn't the only thing that Eric Clapton
and Ted Nugent have in common. These guitar legends
also suffer from tinnitus.
"Tinnitus is an intermittent or constant head noise,"
explains Stephen Gadomski, MD, chief of otolaryngology
at Virtua Voorhees. "Depending on the patient's
perception, the noise can range from a low roar to a
Nearly 36 million Americans have tinnitus. And
while some will live with the head noise permanently,
others will only suffer temporarily.
"Whether the tinnitus is permanent or temporary
depends on the cause," says Nancy Musuras, MA,
CCC-A, F-AAA, Virtua audiologist. "If the underlying
cause can be corrected, then the tinnitus may go away."
For example, temporary tinnitus can be caused by
ear infections, fluid or wax build-up, medications, or
large amounts of aspirin.
Tinnitus can also be caused by allergies, high or low
blood pressure, a tumor, diabetes, thyroid problems,
head or neck injuries or dental problems. "If you hear
head noise for longer than four weeks, consult your
physician," says Musuras.
In some cases, tinnitus is permanent. "Permanent
tinnitus is caused by damage to the hearing nerves in
the inner ear," explains Dr. Gadomski. "A certain
amount of nerve impairment naturally comes with age.
But for a young person, exposure to loud music is the
primary cause of nerve damage." Tinnitus can also
be a symptom of the stiffening of the middle ear
While there is no cure for permanent tinnitus, it
can be treated. And the treatment method and level
of relief varies from patient to patient. "Depending
on what's causing the tinnitus, it can be treated
with a hearing aid, masker or combination of both.
Maskers sit in the ear like a hearing aid and generate
a constant noise, which may cancel out the ringing,"
"Just one loud concert or sudden bang or pop can
cause tinnitus," warns Dr. Gadomski. "To protect your
ears, avoid loud noises or wear protective ear plugs,
and keep your headphone volume low. If the person
next to you can hear your music, it's too loud."
Because blood-flow problems can cause tinnitus, it's
important to check your blood pressure regularly. To
help maintain a normal blood pressure, Dr. Gadomski
advises to cut back on alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and
salt; exercise daily to maintain a healthy weight; and
get plenty of rest.