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Millions may be suffering from hearing loss needlessly.
Tinnitus is sound in the head with no external source. For many, it’s a ringing sound, while for others, it’s whistling, buzzing, chirping, hissing, humming, roaring, or even shrieking. The sound may seem to come from one ear or both, from inside the head, or from a distance. It may be constant or intermittent, steady or pulsating. Tinnitus is bothersome but rarely indicative of a more serious health issue. There are ways to manage the condition or minimize its impact.
Q. I have a feeling of fullness in my ears that won't go away. I think it has been diagnosed as something called eustachian tube dysfunction. I have been to several otolaryngologists. Nothing has worked. Suggestions?
A. People with a persistent sensation of fullness in the ear should get it checked out by a physician. Occasionally, hearing loss can create such a feeling. Temporomandibular joint disorders, which affect the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull, can also create the sensation. But a diagnosis of eustachian tube dysfunction does make sense.
The eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the nasal cavity, helps to equalize the air pressure on either side of the eardrum. If your eustachian tube is blocked or not working properly, there's less pressure on the inside of the eardrum than the outside, so the eardrum may cave in slightly, which causes that sensation of fullness. In serious cases, fluid accumulates behind the eardrum because pressure is so low that fluid from surrounding tissues and blood vessels gets pulled into the middle ear.
I heard somewhere that the type of earwax you have is linked to your risk of heart disease. Can that be true?
Earwax helps keep the ear canal clean, but if it dries out it can clump together and cause a blockage. A few drops of water held in the ear canal for a minute or so will usually dislodge the wax.
Do you have trouble hearing out of one ear or both?
Do sounds seem distorted in one ear?
Are sounds different between your two ears?
Is the hearing loss getting progressively worse?
Do you have difficulty understanding others when they are talking? For example, do you have trouble hearing people on the other end of the telephone?
Do you have ear pain?
Have you been dizzy or lightheaded? If so, does it seem as if the room is spinning?
Do you feel unsteady when you walk?
Have you heard ringing or unusual noises in one or both of your ears?
Do the muscles on one side of your face feel weaker compared to the other side?
Is there any weakness of your face?
Have you lost your ability to taste certain foods?
Have you had headaches? Nausea? Vomiting?
Have you had double vision or unusual eye movements?
Ear, nose, and throat exam, including a screening test of your hearing in each ear
Audiometry (formal hearing test) by a certified audiologist
Brain-stem auditory evoked potentials
MRI or CT scan of the head
Is your hearing loss on one side or both?
For how long have you noticed the problem?
Has your hearing loss been getting worse over time?
Do you have difficulty understanding other people when they speak?
Do you say "what?" a lot?
When you turn on the television, do others say that it is too loud?
Have you had any kind of ear surgery?
Have you flown in an airplane recently?
Do other people in your family have trouble hearing?
Do you hear ringing in your ears?
Do you suffer from dizziness or loss of coordination?
Have you had multiple ear infections in the past?
Do you currently have an upper respiratory infection (for example, a cold) or other infection?
Have you had any head injuries or strokes in the past?
Are you taking any medications?
Examine your ears, nose, and throat.
Test your balance, coordination, and walking.
Test your ability to hear.
Formal hearing testing by an audiologist (hearing specialist)