A person with tinnitus may hear ringing or other sounds in one or both ears. Tinnitus can be temporary or long-term and persistent. Older age and exposure to loud noise may increase the risk of tinnitus, but the exact cause is unclear.
A person may also hear hissing, roaring, or whistling sounds, which may be high or low pitched.
Tinnitus affects around
It is often linked with hearing loss.
In this article, find out what tinnitus feels like, why it happens, when to see a doctor, and how to manage it.
In most cases, tinnitus is subjective. This means only the individual with tinnitus can hear the sound, and there is no way to measure it. In fewer than 1% of cases, other people can hear the noise.
People commonly describe the sound as:
The sound may also:
- affect one or both ears
- be intermittent or continuous
- be high or low pitched
The sound can change in volume. It is often most noticeable at night or during periods of quiet. There may be some hearing loss.
Some people hear a pulsing sound, like a heartbeat, called pulsatile tinnitus. This can happen if there is a cardiovascular problem.
Tinnitus can affect a person’s overall health and well-being.
The American Tinnitus Association notes that tinnitus can lead to:
- distress and anxiety
- mood changes
- sleep problems
- lack of focus
It can also be a
Objective tinnitus — when other people can hear the noise — may result from cardiovascular or musculoskeletal movements,
Doctors do not know precisely why tinnitus occurs. Changes in many parts of the brain and nervous system can trigger it.
- pressure in the inner ear
- cognitive and emotional factors
reactionto the loss of sensory hair cells
- change in interactions between neural circuits in the ear and other parts of the brain
Can anxiety cause ringing in the ears?
Factors that increase the risk of tinnitus
- workplace noise, for example in buildings or factories
- the sound of gunshots and explosions, including on movie sets
- loud music or working near powerful speakers
People with tinnitus may also have hearing loss.
Various health factors can also lead to tinnitus,
- Ménière’s disease
- cardiovascular disease
- hormonal changes
- thyroid problems
- having earwax in the ear
- a brain tumor
- ear or sinus infections
- high blood pressure
- a head injury
- multiple sclerosis
- anxiety or depression
- having a foreign object in the ear
- palatal myoclonus, a rare condition
that involvesrhythmic contractions of muscles in the roof of the mouth
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
A person should seek medical advice if:
- They have new or sudden tinnitus or tinnitus with other symptoms.
- There may be earwax or a foreign object in the ear that a doctor can remove.
- Tinnitus affects the person’s sleep, ability to interact with others, and other aspects of daily life.
- Tinnitus is causing anxiety or depression.
- The sound is like a heartbeat, which could indicate a cardiovascular problem.
- Another person
can hearit, which may be a sign of a more serious condition.
People should seek emergency medical help for tinnitus if it occurs after a head injury or if the person also has:
- vertigo (dizziness)
- weakness in the facial muscles
- sudden hearing loss
Depending on the cause of tinnitus, treatment
- prompt care for an ear infection
discontinuingany medications that may be causing it
- removing earwax
- treating an underlying condition
- taking steps to manage or mask the sounds of tinnitus
- counseling to help with related issues, such as anxiety or depression
- treatment for hearing loss, if present
If tinnitus does not go away, the following strategies may help:
This could involve:
- playing low level background music
- playing recordings of white noise
- wearing sound generators that fit in the ear and generate background noise or music
- using hearing aids to amplify environmental sounds
- using a tabletop sound generator that plays relaxing sounds, such as waves or rain
These strategies aim to redirect the attention away from tinnitus.
What are the best hearing aids for tinnitus?
A person can attend counseling sessions alongside other options to help them understand and live with tinnitus. Counseling can also address anxiety, depression, and other related issues.
An audiologist may also offer tinnitus retraining therapy, a specialized therapy that
Cochlear implants and hearing aids
Addressing underlying hearing loss
Hearing aids often feature programs to help mask tinnitus.
Here are some more strategies that may help:
- practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing
- avoiding stress or loud background noises when possible, as these can worsen symptoms
- developing a sleep routine, for example, taking a bath and avoiding caffeine before bed
- joining a support group for people with tinnitus
- avoiding total silence, which can make symptoms worse
- seeking distraction, such as from a hobby, to direct attention away from tinnitus
It is not always possible to prevent tinnitus, but people can take measures to reduce the risk, such as:
- using hearing protection, such as ear mufflers and earplugs, in noisy environments
- playing personal listening devices at a
- using special earplugs that do not distort sound when playing music or attending a concert
- discussing the adverse effects of any drugs with a doctor before using them
What are the best earplugs for gigs, sleeping, and other situations? Find out here.
If a person seeks medical advice for tinnitus, the doctor may:
- ask about symptoms
- do a test to check for hearing loss
- assess for conditions that may be causing tinnitus
- refer the person to a specialist doctor for more investigations
The doctor may ask the following questions:
- When and how did tinnitus first start?
- Are the noises constant, intermittent, or pulsating?
- Is there any hearing loss or dizziness?
- Is there any pain or jaw clicking?
- Have you had a recent illness or injury?
- Has there been any exposure to loud noise?
Here are some questions people often ask about tinnitus.
Can tinnitus go away?
Tinnitus can go away if it results from a temporary cause, such as earwax, drug use, or an underlying condition. If it results from permanent damage to the ear or another structure, it will not disappear.
How can you get rid of tinnitus?
Treating an underlying problem or stopping certain medications can resolve tinnitus. If tinnitus does not go away, however, masking and other strategies can help manage it. Finding ways to manage anxiety and stress may also help.
What are the first signs of tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a sound such as ringing, buzzing, roaring, or whistling that only the hearer can hear.
Tinnitus is a sound that a person hears that nobody else can hear. People describe it as ringing, hissing, buzzing, or roaring. It is common and often affects older adults, though it can happen at any age.
In most cases, tinnitus will not go away completely, but if it is due to earwax or medication, it may resolve after treatment. People can manage tinnitus through strategies such as masking, which means playing other sounds, to distract the attention from tinnitus.