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By Dr. Brian McDonough

By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ear or the head that does not arise from the external environment or from mental illness.

Most of us know it as ringing in the ears. Believe it or not almost one in five people are mildly affected by tinnitus. It can last for many years and effect concentration. In older people it can be associated with presbycusis or age-related hearing loss and we know that toxicity from quinine and aspirin can lead to the problem.

In many cases we do not know why it happens and in certain cases it can be associated with cancer.

This is why it is important that if you suffer from tinnitus you talk with your doctor about it. There may or may not be treatments depending on the cause but we have to make certain that in the rare cases where it can be a severe problem you have it checked out.

But in many cases it is just an annoyance – that hopefully goes away in time.

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