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Hear ringing in your ears? Why you might want to see a doctor

TODAY logo TODAY 6/14/2017 Parminder Deo and Dr. Natalie Azar

Woman with earache © Getty Images Woman with earache These strange symptoms could be signs that something more serious is going on with your body.

Sometimes your body tries to send you signals in weird ways. Maybe your taste buds have suddenly changed or you're hearing ringing in your ears — these strange symptoms could be signs that something more serious is going on with your body.

NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar breaks down the important information you need to know about what these symptoms might mean.

1. Ringing in the ears

Could be associated with: earwax build-up, head and neck tumors or problems in the jaw

Tinnitus is the perception of hearing noises or ringing in the ear when no external sound is present. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it can interfere with your ability to concentrate.

It's actually a pretty common problem, affecting about one in five people. It isn't a condition itself, but rather a symptom of other underlying conditions that are associated with age-related hearing loss, injury in the inner ear, earwax buildup or blockage, or sometimes a symptom of allergies. If it lasts longer than a week, you should see a doctor about it. Tinnitus symptoms include phantom noises in your ears, buzzing, ringing, hissing, roaring or clicking.

2. Loss of taste

Could be associated with: Alzheimer's disease, nasal and sinus problems, nutritional deficiencies, head injury or a result of certain medications

Many of us take our sense of taste for granted, but a taste disorder can negatively impact your health and quality of life. At birth, you have about 10,000 taste buds, but after age 50, you may start to lose them. Some loss of taste and even smell is common in older adults, especially after age 60.

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 200,000 people visit a doctor each year for problems with their ability to taste or smell. Scientists believe that up to 15 percent of adults might have a taste or smell problem, but many don't seek a doctor's help. Most people who go to the doctor because they think they have lost their sense of taste are surprised to learn they have a smell disorder instead.

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3. Bluish fingernails

Could be associated with: pulmonary obstruction, emphysema or lung disease

Blue nails are a sign you're not getting enough oxygen to your fingertips, a condition known as cyanosis. There's a whole host of reasons for this, such as a pulmonary obstruction, emphysema or respiratory disease, or a vascular problem called Raynaud's disease (a rare disorder of the blood vessels, usually in the fingers and toes).

Doctors say some people may have slower blood circulation, especially when it's cold. But have a physician check your blood and oxygenation levels if your nails are persistently blue.

"If it's really dusky, you want to see your provider right away," noted Azar.

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4. Retina freckles

Could be associated with: a tumor and should be monitored by a doctor

Your eyes are similar to skin and like skin, they can get marks called choroidal nevi. Although the name sounds complicated, a choroidal nevus is merely a freckle in the eye. Choroidal nevi are usually harmless — in most cases they can only be seen by an eye doctor. Your doctor will likely monitor any freckle, and alert you if it changes in color, size or shape, which could signal a melanoma.

5. Excessive facial hair in women

Could be associated with: an imbalance of hormones

Hirsutism is a medical condition most commonly caused by an imbalance of sex hormones, specifically, excess male hormones called androgens. One of the most common causes is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition affecting women of reproductive age. The condition results in excessive amounts of dark, coarse hair on body areas where men typically grow hair — the face, chest and back. The amount of body hair you have is largely determined by your genetic makeup.

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