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Tinnitus - Facts, Symptoms, Causes and Potential Solutions.

That Ringing In My Ear - Hissing, Whistling, Pulsating Tone …

is called TINNITUS, for some, it can be debilitating.

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Tinnitus is a persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears that can be debilitating.


About 50 million people in the U.S. experience tinnitus, according to the American Tinnitus Association. About 2% of the population has tinnitus so severe their quality of life is impaired.

Those with tinnitus perceive a sound when no external source of sound exists. They may describe the condition as a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or whooshing in the ears. It can affect one or both ears.

Most often, noise exposure leads to tinnitus, according to the American Tinnitus Association. It can be a single extreme noise or the accumulated result of noise over time.


Another known cause of tinnitus is a head or neck injury. Typically, many different treatments are offered, but with little evidence of effectiveness.

Often, doctors will tell a patient with tinnitus: "Nothing more can be done; you have to learn to live with it."

In severe cases, patients can become depressed and unable to work or socialize.




Tinnitus can arise in any of the four sections of the ear: the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, and the brain.

  • In addition to ringing in the ears, other symptoms associated with tinnitus may include:

    • Stress due to fear of tinnitus

    • Ear pain

    • Anxiety

    • Depression

    • Difficulty sleeping

    • Difficulty concentrating

    • Decreased hearing

  • Persistent unexplained tinnitus is evaluated with a hearing test (audiogram).


Some key points about tinnitus.


  • Approximately 90% of persons with chronic tinnitus have some form of hearing loss.

  • Most tinnitus is due to damage to the cochlea (inner ear).

  • There are no studies to support the effectiveness of herbal remedies for tinnitus therapy.

  • Large doses of aspirin can cause tinnitus.

  • Stimulants such as nicotine and alcohol can worsen tinnitus.

  • Although it is heard in the ears, the source of tinnitus is really in the networks of brain cells.

  • People with tinnitus are overly sensitive to loud noise.

  • In rare cases (less than 1% of cases), tinnitus noises can be heard by others.

In almost all cases, tinnitus is a subjective noise, meaning that only the person who has tinnitus can hear it. The most common form of tinnitus is a high-pitched steady ringing. Although tinnitus can be annoying, it is not usually a sign of a more serious problem.






Causes of tinnitus


Damage and loss of the tiny sensory hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear is the most common reason for tinnitus. This damage typically occurs as a result of the normal aging process, and from prolonged exposure to excessively loud noise. Hearing loss coincides with tinnitus.

Tinnitus can be caused by damage to the inner ear due to the aging process and exposure to excessively loud noise.

Research also suggests that the sensory loss of certain sound frequencies leads to changes in how the brain processes sound. As the brain receives less external stimuli around a specific frequency, it begins to adapt and change. Tinnitus may be the brain's way of filling in the missing sound frequencies it no longer receives from its own auditory system.

Some medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, certain antibiotics and diuretics can be "ototoxic" or can damage the inner ear, resulting in tinnitus. Other possible causes of tinnitus are head and neck injuries, ear infections, a foreign object or earwax touching the eardrum, Eustachian tube (middle ear) problems, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, stiffening of the middle ear bones, traumatic brain injury, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

A potentially more serious form of tinnitus can sound like a heartbeat (pulsatile); it could indicate the presence of a tumor in the head and neck or the ear. This type of tinnitus requires a medical evaluation as soon as possible.



Risk factors for tinnitus

Tinnitus is a common problem in the general population with notable risk factors that increase one's risk of developing the condition. These include:

  • Noise exposure from work, headphones, concerts, explosives

  • Smoking

  • Stress

  • Inadequate sleep (less than 6 hours nightly)

  • Hearing loss

  • Hyperlipidemia

  • Arthritis

  • Asthma

  • Depression

  • Thyroid disease.


A non-auditory, internal sound that can be intermittent or continuous, in one or both ears, and either a low- or high-pitch squeal. The varying sounds of tinnitus have been described as whistling, chirping, clicking, screeching, hissing, static, roaring, buzzing, pulsing, whooshing or musical.

The volume of the sound can fluctuate and is often most noticeable at night or during periods of quiet. Tinnitus is often also accompanied by a certain amount of hearing loss.


Tests and diagnosis of tinnitus

It is important for anyone experiencing tinnitus to be evaluated by a health care provider for a thorough examination and evaluation to determine an underlying cause.


One of the primary goals of a medical evaluation is to exclude any life threatening (yet rare) causes of tinnitus. A referral to anotolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) may be necessary.

Questions that the health care provider might ask at the evaluation include:

  • How or when did it start?

  • Are the noises constant, intermittent or pulsating?

  • Is it accompanied by hearing loss or dizziness?

  • Pain or jaw clicking?

  • Have you had a recent illness or injury?

  • Was there an exposure to loud noise such as a rock concert or explosives?

Expect a complete exam of the ear, head, neck and torso, as well as thorough hearing testing, laboratory (blood) tests and, in some cases, imaging studies as part of the tinnitus work-up.

Treatment for tinnitus

Treating any underlying cause of the tinnitus is the first step in addressing the condition, such as prompt care for an ear infection, discontinuing ototoxic medications and treating TMJ problems.

Sound therapy

Sound therapy is a broad term that incorporates using external noise to mask the individual's perception of tinnitus. Low-level background music, white noise or specialized ear maskers can be very effective. The sound choice for masking should be pleasant to the individual. Masking devices are a temporary relief; the awareness of tinnitus returns when the sound therapy is turned off.

Hearing aids are a common type of sound therapy; they amplify environmental sounds and redirect attention to those noises instead of the tinnitus. Success in treating tinnitus with hearing aids is around 50%.



Healthy lifestyle

Although improving one's wellness will not stop tinnitus, it can limit the intensity and provide immense physical, emotional and spiritual benefits. Exercise, healthy eating, good sleep habits, smoking cessation, recreational and social activities and stress management and relaxation techniques are wonderful things a person can consider to achieve optimum wellness.

One of the preventable causes of tinnitus is noise exposure. Sometimes tinnitus can be noticed early before any hearing loss develops. Using hearing protection (ear mufflers and plugs) in noisy environments, and using common sense with personal listening devices might prevent worsening or future hearing damage. Unfortunately, it cannot reverse the damage already done.


This is not meant to render medical advice. If you are experiencing symptoms of Tinnitus, consult a medical professional. Call 877-361-0100. AHG (Advanced Hearing Group) for a consult. Medicare and Most Insurance Plan accepted.


If you Wish to Schedule a Free Consult or Have a Question, Fill in our CONTACT form and one of our representatives will contact you to arrange a consult.

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