Tinnitus refers to ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds in the ear. This affliction affects millions of North Americans, often affecting their work and social life (see tinnitus and emotions) as well as interrupting regular sleep patterns. While tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, it does not contribute to hearing loss. The causes of tinnitus are many and include:

• Exposure to loud sounds • Blockages of the ear • Ear infections • Dental or temporomandibular joint problems • Injuries to the inner ear following surgery • Blood flow and nerve problems

Tinnitus takes two primary forms:

Pulsatile tinnitus This form of tinnitus results when you hear the sounds of your muscle contractions or pulse. The noise heard in the ear is caused by the sounds created by muscle movements in the ear; changes in the ear canal; or vascular problems in the face or neck.

Nonpulsatile tinnitus This form of tinnitus sounds is caused by problems inside the hearing nerves.

Tinnitus is often intermittent, making medical treatment complicated. Most tinnitus goes untreated, with users learning how to deal with tinnitus over time. However, if tinnitus does not improve or wane over time, or if accompanied by other medical symptoms, then visit your doctor to develop improved coping techniques.

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