DEAR READER: Tinnitus (noise or ringing in one or both ears) is not a disease but a symptom that points to something wrong in the auditory system. The cause can be something as simple as wax blocking the ear canal, the result of a thyroid abnormality, Meniere's disease, infection, noise-induced hearing loss, aneurysm or brain tumor and more.
My guess is that because you or a family member has tinnitus, your doctor has referred you to an otolaryngologist (ear-nose-and-throat specialist) or an audiologist and an examination has been performed. This first step would likely rule out simple wax impaction. A series of specialized tests can help determine where the problem originated. An auditory brain response to test hearing nerves and brain pathways or a CT or MRI to rule out tumor on a nerve may be ordered.
A physician might suggest hearing aids to control outside sound levels; wearable sound generators that fit in the ear to generate pleasant sounds or white noise to mask the tinnitus; acoustic nerve stimulation to reduce or eliminate the tinnitus; cochlear implants that can bypass the damaged area of the inner ear but send electrical signals to stimulate the auditory nerve; biofeedback; and more.
A study performed in Brazil some six years ago tested the drug acamprosate (Campral), currently used for the control of alcoholism, in tinnitus sufferers. It showed greater than 86 percent relief of symptoms. Studies remain ongoing in the United States for this use. Keep in mind that some antidepressants and other medications such as aspirin might be the sole culprit. Speak with your physician regarding any prescriptions, over-the-counters and herbal supplements you might be on. Perhaps a simple switch to another product might be just what is needed. There are numerous herbal supplements and other products available without prescription to combat tinnitus; however, before beginning any of them, consult with your doctor to determine whether they are right for you.
On the home front, reduce caffeine and salt intake, discontinue smoking if appropriate, and check zinc levels through simple laboratory testing. These steps might reduce symptoms to a more manageable level. Be sure to protect your hearing when mowing the lawn, listening to television, or even using a blow-dryer on your hair. If your job involves being around machinery, earplugs might be appropriate.
Readers who would like additional information can order my Health Report "Ear Infections and Disorders" by sending a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order made payable to Newsletter and mailed to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Be sure to mention the title or print an order form off my website's direct link at www.AskDrGottMD.com/order_form.pdf
DEAR DR. GOTT: I have followed your advice about using Vicks to kill a toenail fungus I had for years. My problem is that the toenails on my big toes have lifted and they don't want to return to normal. Any suggestions?
DEAR READER: Perhaps something other than a fungus is going on. Make an appointment with a podiatrist to determine whether the nails will fall off freely or need to be cut back, and whether a fungal infection persists or an unidentified issue remains.
Dr. Peter H. Gott is a retired physician and the author of several books, including "Live Longer, Live Better," "Dr. Gott's No Flour, No Sugar Diet" and "Dr. Gott's No Flour, No Sugar Cookbook," which are available at most bookstores or online. His website is www.AskDrGottMD.com
Copyright 2011, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.
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