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Tinnitus – the buzzing in the ear

Almost everyone knows it: after a loud bang or following a rock concert, a whistling, buzzing or hissing sound will linger in the ear, but usually not for long. With people suffering from tinnitus, however, this condition is permanent. Read more about the likely causes of tinnitus and the options available for treating it.

What many people don’t know is that tinnitus has two forms: objective and subjective. Objective tinnitus has a physical cause. In other words, something in the body produces sound waves that the sufferer then “hears.” An example could be blood flowing through a vessel anomality. If the source of the sound is removed, the tinnitus disappears as well. Objective tinnitus can therefore be treated medically.

Subjective tinnitus
The more frequent and better known type is subjective tinnitus. Here, the affected person also hears sounds, but they are merely a perception by the auditory system since there is no physical source.

Subjective tinnitus often occurs also in connection with sudden hearing loss. Other causes can be a sharp rise in noise level, a virus infection, stress, or Ménière's disease affecting the inner ear. The exact causes are still unknown. Accordingly, there is a range of treatment approaches, from acupuncture to electrotherapy, all the way to foot reflexology.

Can subjective tinnitus be cured?
Yes and no. While acute subjective tinnitus can be cured, a case of chronic subjective tinnitus can not. The difference between the two types is in their duration. A person suffering from tinnitus for only a few months has an acute form. If it lasts longer, the condition is considered to be chronic.

Acute tinnitus that is treated at an early stage will have a 20 percent higher chance of being cured. It can also happen that an acute case disappears on its own. Not so in the case of chronic tinnitus, which is permanent. But it need not become a problem. According to the Swiss Tinnitus League (STL), 90 percent of those suffering from tinnitus can cope very well.

Protection against tinnitus

Since the causes aren’t fully understood yet, no measures exist that guarantee full protection against the condition. In general, however, it helps to avoid sources of strong noise, or at least to protect your hearing, for example when at a disco. Stress can also be a factor in connection with tinnitus, and it therefore makes sense to pay attention to a balanced lifestyle. Getting enough sleep can help too. If you nevertheless happen to be suffering from acute tinnitus, the Swiss Tinnitus League advises you to stay calm and get plenty of sleep. If your tinnitus is still there the next morning, you should see your doctor or ear nose and throat specialist as soon as possible.

If you have any further questions about your health, you can ask the doctors and medical staff at the sante24 health advice helpline for expert advice – free of charge, 24 hours a day. On request, sante24 can also make a doctor’s appointment for you. Tel. +41 (0)44 404 86 86