What is tinnitus?
This is a term used to define the presence of a sound in the ear without any external sound stimulus. Most patients describe it as a ringing, buzzing, or a whistling sound. It can affect one or both ears.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a symptom, and it may have an underlying cause. It is therefore important to see your GP or an ENT specialist.
Management of tinnitus
A good history and comprehensive examination can help identify possible causes of this symptom. A hearing test is essential, and further investigations may be required depending on the findings.
Despite a comprehensive examination, and investigations the cause of tinnitus can remain unknown. At its onset the symptom can be disturbing, but given time it usually reduces in intensity and patients learn to live with tinnitus. Sometimes the help of a hearing therapist is useful. The role played by a hearing therapist is useful in explaining the pathophysiology behind this symptom, and ways in which a patient can learn to subdue it and gain control.
What terms are used to describe dizziness?
This term encompasses several symptoms. A person may complain that they are ‘dizzy’ to mean a feeling of light headedness, imbalance, spinning, swaying, like being on a boat, or feeling faint. It is a disturbing sensation as it causes worry that this may signify serious pathology, and in itself it is debilitating. Someone with this problem can lose their confidence in performing routine tasks, and going out during the day. Fortunately, more often than not this group of symptoms does not signify a serious underlying problem.
However, it is important to seek advice from your GP or be referred to an ENT specialist. The mainstay of diagnosis is a comprehensive history and examination backed by investigations. These include a hearing test, balance tests, and scans if required.
What are its causes?
Disorders related to the inner ear that cause dizziness include Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), Meniere’s disease/syndrome, infection, and lack of blood flow amongst others. Dizziness arising from inner ear problems typically gives rise to a sensation of spinning or vertigo.
How is it managed?
Management is dependent on the underlying cause of dizziness. Drugs are available, but their use is restricted to certain conditions depending on the diagnosis. Exercises are available to curtail the symptom in some conditions. Very rarely, surgery may be required.