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Inner ear infection.

Susan Moreland smorelan at MAGNUS.ACS.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Thu Jun 29 10:05:06 EST 1995

At 04:42 PM 6/28/95 GMT, Alan Hart wrote:
>A friend of mine has just suffered a very nasty inner ear infection. Her 
>vestibular system appears to have packed up and the room was constantly 
>spinning. She vomited frequently. She ended up in hospital and was off work 
>for about 5 weeks.
>A consequence of this is that she has lost some hearing, presumably in the 
>one ear, and she has been told that she may not recover this. She also has a 
>loud buzzing in one ear.
>My questions:
>- What are the prospects for recovery from tinnitus (I take it it is called 
>  tinnitus even it it manifests itself as a buzzing) caused in this way?
>- Is it likely to improve?

yes, tinnitus can take the form of many different sounds, including ringing,
buzzing, waterfalls, chain saws, etc..  _Conn's Medical_ gives the following
stats re: recovery from the condition:

1)  tinnitus will vanish completely in ~25% of cases
2) it will gradually reduce in ~50% of cases
3)  ~25% of patients will need treatment of some sort in order to reduce the
severity of the tinnitus 

- Can drugs be given to deaden hearing (and hence buzzing) in that ear only?

a number of drugs and homeopathic remedies have been used (with varying
degress of success) to treat tinnitus, whether it is unilateral or
bilateral.  perhaps the most frequently prescribed medication is Xanax,
which is somewhat similar to Valium.  ginkgo balboa is an herbal vasodilator
remedy that has been shown in some studies to be quite effective, and in
other studies to be no better than a placebo.  niacin, another vasodilator
has also had mied success in studies.

other drugs/remedies include: anti-depressants, muscle relaxants,
anti-convulsants, intravenous lidocaine, histamines, anti-histamines (yes,
both of them), meclizine, DMSO, vinpocetine and vincamine,hydergine, sodium
fluoride, zinc, diuretics, and Serc.  however, it is importnat to note that
simply because i have listed a drug does *not* mean that it is an effective
or even appropriate treatment for tinnitus, or anything else for that
matter.  these are just some of the many treatments that have been tried,
and in some cases are still commonly used.  your friend needs to discuss all
medical treatments (even the homeopathic ones, imho) with her doctor before
trying them. 

>- Is a cure for tinnitus likely in the next few years?

there are so many causes of tinnitus that it is impossible to say whether
there will be a cure for it any time in the near future.  if you're talking
about the tinnitus that can result from damage to the hair cells, i'd have
to say that i don't think we're looking at a cure any time soon, although
there is fairly aggressive research underway as we speak.  

>- I understand one "cure" is permanent elimination of hearing in one ear.
>  Is this procedure actually ever done, and how is it viewed by specialists?

if the tinnitus results from damage to the central auditory system (in the
pathways to and within the brain), then severing the acoustic nerve will
*not* result in the elimination of the ringing. the patient ends up deaf,
but still hears the tinnitus.  not a good scenario. 

>Thanks for any comments - answers here are fine given the low traffic in 
>this group.
smorelan at magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu

"I love to sail forbidden seas,
and land on barbarous coasts."
  ~Herman Melville, _Moby-Dick_

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