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What's that ringing?

Capt. April Taylor, 48th Surgical Operations Squadron chief of audiology services, uses a tympanometry machine on the ear of Tech. Sgt. Alison McSween, Surgical Operations Squadron NCO in charge of ear, nose and throat/audiology clinic, at the hospital Sept. 2. The tympanometry machine measures ear canal volume and ear drum compliance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tiffany Deuel)

Capt. April Taylor, 48th Surgical Operations Squadron chief of audiology services, uses a tympanometry machine on the ear of Tech. Sgt. Alison McSween, Surgical Operations Squadron NCO in charge of ear, nose and throat/audiology clinic, at the hospital Sept. 2. The tympanometry machine measures ear canal volume and ear drum compliance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tiffany Deuel)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- Most of us hear a ringing or buzzing in our heads at one time or another. Some people hear it all of the time and others hear it intermittently. Have you or someone you know ever experienced this but not understood what it was? This internal sound that others cannot hear is known as tinnitus. It can be heard in one or both ears and sometimes is perceived in the middle of the head.

According to the Better Hearing Institute, 50 million adults suffer from tinnitus. It impacts the everyday lives of 12 million people. Tinnitus can also occur in children.

There are multiple causes of tinnitus. They can include noise exposure, aging, head injury and side effects of various medications. Sometimes the cause of tinnitus is unknown. It can, but does not always, accompany hearing loss. In some cases, tinnitus can be a symptom of something more serious. Tinnitus can affect us in many different ways. It can make it difficult to fall asleep or concentrate. It can make us anxious or depressed. Tinnitus can also make it more difficult to hear if it is competing with the perception of speech or sound.

At this time, there is no definitive cure for tinnitus. However, there are several coping strategies available. Various forms of sound therapy and counseling exist. When medication is the cause, stopping or trying a different one, if possible, can help (consult your prescribing physician before doing this). Hearing aids and other devices have also been known to help mask tinnitus.

It is important to remember that tinnitus is a symptom and will not cause hearing loss or cause existing hearing loss to get worse.

If you or someone you know is concerned with or bothered by tinnitus, contact the ENT/Audiology Clinic for a complete hearing evaluation at 226-8566.