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Tinnitus and Sinus Infections

Q: I'm prone to sinus infections (I usually get two or three a year), and a few months back I suffered from a particularly bad one that left me with a constant ringing in my ears. It's beginning to drive me bonkers. Sometimes it even keeps me awake at night. Can you help?

Dr. Donnica:
It sounds like you have developed something called tinnitus, a perception of buzzing or ringing noise in the ears. This can have many causes, one of which is sinus infections, and may or may not be accompanied by hearing loss. Tinnitus can also be caused by an injury to the inner ear (from head or neck trauma, loud noise or music) or from several other health problems: blood flow or muscle spasms in the middle ear, ear wax buildup, ear infections, otosclerosis, jaw misalignment, heart disease, tumors, hypothyroidism, and various medications (e.g. high doses of aspirin).

Approximately 20-35% of our population (50 million people) is affected by tinnitus at some point. Especially among the elderly, severe tinnitus may cause depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and other problems.

Tinnitus can be treated. You should see an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) for an evaluation. In the meantime, avoid caffeine, chocolate, nicotine and alcohol. Treatment will depend upon the specific type of tinnitus, but may include antibiotics, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, special hearing aids, cochlear implants, or an ultrasound device.

Created: 3/4/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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