Head Noise or Tinnitus
Head noise or tinnitus is common. Public health studies in the United Kingdom indicated that between 10% to 17% of the adult population experiences significant tinnitus.
All of us will, at some time, have experienced tinnitus in extremely quiet conditions. Recently, a couple of weeks ago, I had a bad experience after a concert, when I took a seat too near the stage, and developed tinnitus that required me to take a sedative that night to sleep. The clinical problem of tinnitus distress is therefore something quite common. The increasing amplitude of ambient noise in our urban society seems likely to increase the number of individuals referred for tinnitus management.
What is described as a ringing noise in the ear is known in medical practice as the symptom or complaint of tinnitus.
Tinnitus is defined as an auditory perception of internal origin (noise) rarely heard by others. The nature of the sound varies considerably but as much as 20% of sufferers describe it as ringing, buzzing or steam escaping.
Most tinnitus is audible only to the patient and it is indeed “patients suffering in silence”. Most people are not aware of their slight tinnitus, as a result of the masking effect of ambient noise (usually greater than 35 dB). Sometimes, listening to music with an mp3 player, is done for this masking effect.
Tinnitus must be thought of as a symptom or complaint, and not as a disease. Just as pain in the arm or leg, or a high temperature (fever), is a symptom and not a disease. A cause for it must be sought out. A problem in any part of our hearing mechanism, from the external ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, the nerve pathways to the brain and even at the brain, can cause this symptom.
Tinnitus associated with upset balance and giddiness, points to an inner ear or other central cause for it.
There are several measures to alleviate this symptom, besides masking. Most important is to seek a doctor’s opinion as to its cause, and to effectively treat the cause, before the patient can obtain a remedy for tinnitus.