Tinnitus facts

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:46 pm
Tinnitus (TIN-IT-US) is commonly called 'ringing in the ears,' although it can also take the form of buzzing, hissing or any number of sounds. Some fifty million Americans suffer from the condition to some degree, and about twelve million of those cases are severe enough to require medical attention. About a million people have tinnitus so severe that it seriously interferes with their lives. Sometimes, tinnitus can have a physical cause, such as blockage in the Eustachian (YOU-STAY-SHE-UN) tube or ear wax buildup. When these are treated, the tinnitus disappears. For other people, there is no cure, but a number of steps can be taken to alleviate the condition. Masking the sound with background noise or specially designed hearing aids can provide some relief. Certain cases respond to medication, others to biofeedback. There is even a therapy available that teaches people to live with the condition. Tinnitus can also be associated with a condition known as Meniere's (MEN-EE-AIRS) Disease, particularly in the elderly. Again, there's no cure, but a good otolaryngologist (OH-TOE-LAIR-IN-JOLLA-GIST) can prescribe medications that may alleviate the symptoms.

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