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There's a reason for the ringing in your ears

It's easy to say that persistent ringing in the ears  a condition known in the medical field as tinnitus  is relatively harmless and never fatal. But that characterization doesn't do justice to the terror it wreaks on the daily lives of sufferers, according to Dr. Dale Smith of the Allergy, Ear, Nose and Throat Institute of Lawton.

"An acquaintance of mine, who was an ear, nose and throat surgeon in Michigan had a patient who, many years ago had tinnitus and they were trying to take care of it," Smith said. "It was not to this patient's satisfaction. He walked into the doctor's office, pulled a gun and shot his doctor dead because he could not make his tinnitus go away. I'm sure that gunshot caused him to have more hearing loss and made his tinnitus worse. It killed the doctor. What it makes us realize is, for some people this becomes a big thing for them."

While such a result is thankfully rare, it speaks to the desperation that some sufferers experience. They hear sounds that no one else can hear, a condition called subjective tinnitus, according to Smith.

Oddly, there is also a condition where suffferers hear sounds that are actually occurring and can be detetected with a stethoscope.

"Sometimes we'll use a stethoscope and listen if the patient says, 'I have this ringing in this right ear.' We'll listen to see if we can hear it, too. Some people might say if this person hears it and nobody else hears it, it must be psychological, but it's not."

This condition is known as "objective tinnitus."

It's a sound that is generated from the inner ear, he said. He usually tells patients that about 10-15 percent of people in the U.S. have some tinnitus intermittently.

The Lawton Constitution

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