My husband, now aged 71, has had tinnitus for the last six years. On a scale of one to five, on rare good days it is almost zero but most times he feel like banging his head against the wall in despair. Also external noise, such as traffic, drives him to distraction. He thinks it may have started after dental treatment and/or airplane travel. Has any research been done on the subject? Are there any foods, drink or situations that should be avoided?
- F.S. Jerusalem
Prof. Rafi Feinmesser, head ENT, Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva, replies:
Young people get tinnitus from various causes, including exposure to high levels of noise. Dental treatment does not cause tinnitus. Changing air pressure during flights could, especially if one has a cold, but usually it is temporary. When tinnitus starts in elderly people it is usually due to the ageing process and damage to the auditory nerve. You should go to a hearing specialist for an examination.
There is no drug or other cure for tinnitus, but there are ways to reduce the patient's suffering. Biofeedback can help through suggestion. We all hear ringing in our ears from time to time, but we don't pay attention to it. Biofeedback, as well as hypnosis, can help you not pay attention to it. A hearing aid may help. There are also devices that make "white noise" to mask the ringing in your ears that you hear.
Be careful not to expose yourself to high levels of noise, as this could make it worse.
I know that there is plenty of sun in Israel during most of the year, but I usually wear my sunglasses only during the spring and summer months because I don't find glasses comfortable. Is it important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days during the winter months?
- G.D., Golan Heights
Prof. Adam Gordon of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry. comments:
Sunglasses protect the eyes from ultraviolet rays and should be worn year-round. Ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth's surface, even on cloudy or overcast days. Overexposure to UV rays causes painful corneal abrasion, which can last for several days to a week.
If you have snow, it reflects ultraviolet radiation, so people who spend much time outdoors when there is snow on the ground are at greater risk of exposure. In addition, scientific evidence links prolonged ultraviolet exposure to cataracts and possibly age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.
I was inducted into the army a few months ago and have developed athlete's foot from the communal bathrooms and showers. What can I do to avoid it under such conditions?
- F.A., via email
Doctor of podiatric medicine and foot surgeon Oliver Zong of New York City says:
Shared showers are one of the easier places to contract fungus and bacteria because the wet, steamy atmosphere is a great place for them to breed. But there are things you can do to avoid them.
Never go barefoot. Always wear flip-flops when showering or walking around in a communal bathroom. The easiest way to defend yourself against foot fungus and bacteria is always to wear something on your feet, even in the shower. Athlete's foot and nail fungus are very commonly transmitted in shared showers. Even if the bathrooms are cleaned regularly, it doesn't help if the person who showered right before you had foot fungus or warts (both of which are contagious).
People often neglect to scrub their feet in the shower because they assume the stream of soap and water is enough; but it's not.
Make sure to dry thoroughly after washing, especially between toes, as dampness encourages fungus growth. Keep your feet dry by wearing socks made of natural fiber, such as cotton. Avoid wearing tight shoes and go barefoot or wear sandals when relaxing. Trapping your feet in tight shoes causes them to sweat more, which encourages fungus growth. Check your feet and toenails regularly for any abnormalities and have any skin growths checked by a doctor.
Rx For Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx For Readers, the Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to email@example.com, giving your initials, age and residence.