Q: Doc I need help my sister in law’s ear. When you talk to her she her from far you have to talk aloud but she went to the clinic they gave her ear drop but its not helping and she is avoiding going to hospital and her ear does not have any fluid coming out. The problem its hearing and there is no pain in the ear. She said her ear is making sounds no pain; so can she become deaf?
A: Thanks for writing in.
Noisy ears as you have described is medically called tinnitus. This is a sensation of hearing noise or ringing in the ears. The noise in the ears has also been described as whistling, humming, grinding, hissing, buzzing etc. This is, most times, not a sign of a serious medical condition and would just be a minor irritation as it comes and goes. In other instances, it is continuous, significantly impacting everyday life. It is worse when background noise is low and worsens with age. Generally, it would get better over time or with treatment.
Other conditions associated with tinnitus include:
• Middle ear infection
• Ear wax build-up
• Inner ear damage
• Some medications like aspirin taken in very large doses and some antibiotics like Neomycin etc
• Medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes etc
• Perforated ear drums caused by violent events
Men, people who smoke, are exposed to loud noise on a prolonged basis, older people and those with cardiovascular problems are more likely to develop tinnitus.
There is really no treatment for tinnitus except there is a specific cause like ear wax build-up, high blood pressure, specific medication etc. In such situations, the cause is treated ( eg removal of ear wax changing medication etc) and symptoms may get better.
In other instances where there is no cause, focus is on helping one live with it through counselling, therapy to change the way one thinks about the noise so that they are better able to deal with it, introducing one to neutral sounds which help distract from the ear ‘noise’ etc. Some medications can also help reduce the severity of symptoms.
So, the first thing to do is to get your sister-in-law down to see an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. He/she will make a diagnosis and then advice on the next course of management.
Have a great evening, people ☺