Latest posts by Dr. Jason Leyendecker (see all)
- Getting Your Hearing Checked - January 22, 2020
- Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters - December 27, 2019
- All About Tinnitus - December 19, 2019
Tinnitus or ringing in the ears is a common condition, but much is still unknown about it. As a matter of fact, we know dozens of things that can trigger tinnitus, but we don’t know indefinitely what causes it or how to completely cure it. That’s why it’s important we understand tinnitus more, so we can develop awareness, inform other of prevention methods, and gear research towards a cure.
In this article, we explain what tinnitus is, the known causes, how tinnitus is treated, and many other common questions regarding this issue.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus occurs when you hear sounds but there is nothing present to produce an actual sound. More specifically, it’s ringing, whistling, humming, buzzing, roaring, or other sounds that happen inside your ears instead of hearing an external sound.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Since tinnitus is a side effect of many underlining conditions, numerous things could be causing you to hear ringing in your ears. However, there’s a key difference between temporary ringing in your ears and long-term ringing in your ears.
Most people experience ringing, humming, roaring or other internal sounds within their ears from time to time. Temporary tinnitus occurs suddenly and usually resolves within a few minutes. Furthermore, temporary tinnitus can happen for a number of reasons, such as a new medication or changes in altitude if you’re traveling. It may also occur for no reason. There is usually no cause for concern if the ringing in your ears isn’t persistent
For some people, tinnitus never goes away completely and there are numerous causes of permanent tinnitus, but the most common causes stem from health issues and medications.
Health Conditions, Disorders, and Diseases
Although there are numerous medical problems that contribute to tinnitus, these are some of the most common:
- Hearing loss: Prolonged exposure to loud noises and aging contribute to hearing loss, which may cause tinnitus
- Buildup of ear wax: A buildup of wax in your ear may result in discomfort, injury, and tinnitus
- Meniere’s Disease: This is an inner ear disorder where fluid collects within the inner ear canal, causing vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus
- Thyroid related issues: Tinnitus is often a side effect of hypo- and hyperthyroidism
- Diabetes: High and low blood sugar may trigger roaring, ringing, humming, and other noises within the ears
- High blood pressure: Ringing in the ears is a common side effect of tinnitus
The medications on our list are not the only ones that cause tinnitus. If you’re taking a new drug and experience tinnitus, you should let your doctor know. You can also read the side effects of medications to confirm if tinnitus is one.
- Medications for Cancer
Physical injuries to your head, brain, or ears also causes tinnitus.
What Treatments are Available for Tinnitus?
If your tinnitus is mild, your doctor may suggest eliminating foods and drinks that contain chocolate, caffeine, and sugar because they can make tinnitus worse. You may also need to limit aspirin and other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.
Another treatment your doctor might suggest is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which doesn’t cure tinnitus but directs you to focus on other sounds besides the ringing or humming in your ears. This may include listening to music, nature sounds, or simply focusing on other noises around you.
Hearing aids may also reduce the intensity of your tinnitus if the ringing is caused by hearing loss.
Is Tinnitus Preventable?
Tinnitus isn’t always preventable, but you can certainly minimize your risk of getting tinnitus as well as reduce the intensity of your tinnitus if you have it. Limiting your intake of NSAIDs (per your doctor’s approval), protecting your ears around loud noises, listening to entertainment on low settings, and limiting harmful substances like alcohol and drugs are just a few precautions you can take.
When is it a Good Time to See an Audiologist?
It’s never a bad time to see an audiologist about your tinnitus. However, you should definitely visit an audiologist if the tinnitus is persistent or loud enough to disturb or distract you.
Tinnitus is uncomfortable and aggravating but physically harmless. The issue with tinnitus is that it is often a side effect of injury or health problems, so it’s a good idea to monitor it closely. You should also discuss it with your doctor if you’re concerned or if it occurs suddenly and won’t resolve. Protecting your ears from damage is the best way to prevent or treat tinnitus.