Question: For two years, I’ve had constant ringing in my ear that’s gradually getting stronger. Tests by an ear specialist were inconclusive, What’s going on, and what can I do about it?
Answer: The cause of ringing or other noise in the ear, called tinnitus, often can’t be determined. Tinnitus can result from almost any ear disorder, such as impacted earwax or infection. It can also be a symptom of anemia, cardiovascular disease, or Meniere’s disease. Tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss.
Treating the underlying disorder, if one can be found, may stop the noise. If not, you can cover up the noise by playing background music or by using a tinnitus masker, which is worn like a hearing aid and makes a whining sound. Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and loud noises may aggravate tinnitus in some people.
EAR OF FLYING
Question: Whenever I fly, I chew gum and yawn on both descent. Still, I experience pain in my ears, especially on descent Afterward, my ears feel “blocked” for the rest of the day. Is there anything I can do about this?
Answer: Your problem probably stems from congestion block-ing the eustachian tube, which connects your nose and middle ear. When that happens, the change in cabin pressure during takeoff and landing can make the eardrum retract or expand, causing pain and impairing hearing. To keep the eustachian tube open, try taking a decongestant—preferably a short-acting nasal spray or drops, such as phenylephrine 0.5% (Neo-Synephrine)—shortly before takeoff. A second dose may be needed shortly before landing.
Question: What can you tell me about Meniere’s disease? My doctor says there’s no treatment Is that true?
Answer: The cause of Meniere’s disease, a disorder that affects the inner ear, is unknown. Symptoms include vertigo (a spinning sensation) and tinnitus (ringing or other noise) in one ear or occasionally both ears. Gradual hearing loss often occurs. An ear; nose, and throat specialist can confirm the diagnosis with tests of balance and hearing. To rule out an acoustic neuroma—a benign tumor that can cause symptoms similar to those of Meniere’s disease—a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance image (MRI) of the internal auditory canal within the skull should be done.
Treatment of Meniere’s disease is usually not very effective. Strategies include diet therapy (usually low-sodium) and certain medications (antihistamines, sedatives, or diuretics). As a last resort, part of the inner ear may have to be surgically destroyed to provide relief.
Question: Several months ago, I experienced dizziness so severe that I couldn’t walk or even open my eyes. I was rushed to a hospital, where the problem was diagnosed as labyrinthitis and treated with Antivert. Four months later, I still sometimes feel light-headed and have trouble keeping my balance when l look back over my shoulder. Will this go on forever?
Answer: Probably not. Usually, each succeeding attack gets shorter and milder, although some people continue to have dizzy spells at irregular intervals for many years.
Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the maze of inner-ear canals that control balance. The disorder usually arises from nasal congestion caused by a cold or allergy. The result is vertigo, a spinning sensation that disrupts balance.
Certain medications may help control the dizziness. These drugs include dimenhydrinate, sold over the counter as Drama-mine, and meclizine, available by prescription as Antivert or over the counter as Bonine or Dramamine II.
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