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Causes of Shrill High Pitched Ringing in Ears

By Lindsay Boyers ; Updated August 14, 2017

A shrill, high pitched ringing in the ears is medically referred to as tinnitus. Tinnitus is not a disease in itself, but occurs as a symptom to an underlying condition and affects approximately one in five people, according to MayoClinic.com. Although the shrill, high pitched ringing is extremely bothersome, most causes of tinnitus are not serious health problems.

Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis is an ear disorder characterized by inflammation of a part of the inner ear called the labyrinth. When the labyrinth is inflamed, it interferes with proper balance and hearing ability. This results in vertigo, tinnitus, inability to focus the eyes, loss of balance, nausea and vomiting. Labyrinthitis usually develops as a result of a prior ear infection, allergies or a side effect to certain medications. Alcohol abuse and smoking increase the risk of developing labyrinthitis, according to Medline Plus. Labyrinthitis usually goes away on its own within a few weeks, but medications may be needed to alleviate symptoms if they are severe. These medications may include anti-inflammatory drugs, antihistamines and medications to reduce nausea and vomiting.

Meniere's Disease

Meniere’s disease is characterized by a change in composition or volume of the fluid, called endolymph, in the inner ear. When the head moves, the endolymph moves as well, sending nerve signals to the brain about the body’s position. Volume or composition changes in the endolymph result in abnormal nerve signals to the brain, which causes dizziness, tinnitus, nausea, vomiting and increased sweating, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. There is no known cure for Meniere’s disease, but symptoms can usually be successfully controlled by reducing the body’s ability to retain water. This is done through following a low-salt diet and the use of diuretics. In cases of severe, debilitating Meniere’s disease, a portion of the inner ear may be removed to prevent symptoms from recurring. This is only used in extreme circumstances, however, because it usually results in hearing loss.

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Acoustic Neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a benign, and usually slow-growing, tumor that develops on the eighth cranial nerve, which runs from the brain to the inner ear. The exact cause of the development of an acoustic neuroma is unknown, but MayoClinic.com notes that genetic factors are believed to be involved. As the tumor grows, it exerts pressure on the cranial nerve, resulting in gradual hearing loss, tinnitus, dizziness, numbness and weakness in the face and loss of balance. If the tumor is small, medical intervention is usually not necessary. When the tumor becomes larger, radiation therapy or surgical removal may be used to treat the condition and relieve symptoms.

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