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What's that ringing in your ears?
 By Glen Gower

Famous tinnitus sufferers

• Actor William Shatner started experiencing it after a loud explosion on the set of one of the old Star Trek episodes. He says it contributed to the breakup of his second marriage, and even made him consider suicide.

• Other famous tinnitus sufferers in history include Beethoven, Michalangelo, and Charles Darwin. Today, stars like Sylvester Stallone, Steve Martin and Barbara Streisand have all said they have tinnitus.

Good vibrations?

• In parts of China, tinnitus is a sign of wisdom. In some places in Turkey, it's considered good luck. In some religious sects in India, it's believed to be the voice of God.

If you've ever attended a loud concert, you've probably come home with a bit of ringing in your ears. For some people, that ringing never goes away, and it has nothing to do with listening to loud music.

Listen to the full story in RealAudio [Radio documentary 8:27]

Between 10 and 20 per cent of the population suffers from tinnitus — a chronic ringing or buzz in your ears that won't go away. While it's often caused by inner ear damage, it can also be due to bad blood circulation, medication, or even stress.

We don't know exactly why tinnitus occurs in some patients, but not in others. And we're not really sure how to treat it. There are ways to make it more bearable, no surefire way to make it disappear.

Two projects are underway right now in Ottawa to find some answers. At the Ottawa Hospital, an audiologist thinks that visual therapy could be the answer. And a team of researchers at Carleton University are trying to find out what's the best coping strategy for people who suffer from untreatable conditions.

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