DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have a low, steady ringing in my ears. It's more noticeable at night, when everything is quiet. I have not been subject to any loud noises or any colds or sicknesses. This has been going on for four weeks. Could it be related to my being pregnant, or the fact that I am now taking a prenatal vitamin with iron (150mg)? -- D.S., Baton Rouge, Louisiana
DEAR D.S.: Ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus (tih-NY-tuss), can represent a wide spectrum of phantom sounds brought about by a variety of conditions. It is often accompanied by hearing loss. I am familiar with tinnitus, as it remains a most unwelcome visitor in my own life. Hopefully yours is temporary, so let's take a brief look at the buzz on this annoying condition.
Normally, external sound vibrations strike the eardrum, causing the bones of the inner ear to vibrate and conduct the sound to the acoustic nerve. The (mechanical) acoustic vibration gets translated into an electric nerve signal, which then travels to the brain for interpretation. With tinnitus, something inside the head causes the acoustic nerve to fire. This "something" might be an inflammation, infection, blockages, malfunctions with the inner ear, otosclerosis (an overgrowth of the inner ear bones), pressure from abnormal tissue, a blood pressure issue, anemia, an allergy, a reaction to a medication (even something as common as an OTC pain reliever), a cumulative effect of exposure to loud noise, or the actions of a toxic agent.
As you can see, it is a long list.
There is an increased prevalence of tinnitus during pregnancy, which could indicate that your symptoms are temporary. I think it would be in your best interest to mention this to your physician or obstetrician, and possibly to have it checked out by an ear specialist. An expert can help you better understand what is going on, and rule out any possible situation that could be of concern during your pregnancy. In addition, there may be some intervention that could help prevent matters from getting worse.
Check out the fact sheet and article on tinnitus from the U.S National Library of Medicine: tinyurl.com/ztvu2pu and tinyurl.com/hwrdxok.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I wanted to report a reaction my daughter had to rose-hip tea, as I know rose hips are ingredients in many vitamin C products.
In her late teens, my daughter was covered with hives within an hour of drinking some rose-hip tea. I rushed her to the nearest doctor, who informed me that the hives, which were even in her throat, could have caused suffocation, or even death, had she been brought in even one hour later. -- M.D., Chicago
DEAR M.D.: I appreciate the importance of your note, and I trust that others will take heed to the lesson learned by you and your daughter. Your story is a reminder about the potential dangers of food allergies, and it counsels alertness and caution when trying new foods. Any untoward reaction -- especially one that can affect breathing or blood pressure -- is not to be trifled with, and medical attention should be sought immediately. Read more on allergic reactions at: tinyurl.com/ne3g6zl.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.