Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)


What is Tinnitus?

It’s a ringing, buzzing or hissing sound that seems to be coming from inside your head. This is how people with tinnitus describe the sounds or “noise” they are hearing. It can be irritating, but it’s not usually serious.

Causes of Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a symptom of another condition like age-related hearing loss, an ear injury or ear disorder. Other potential causes include:

  • Earwax buildup
  • Medicines
  • Excess alcohol or caffeine
  • Dental problems
  • Sudden change in air pressure
  • Blood flow problems

Tinnitus is a common issue, affecting one out of every five people. Men in particular and those over 40 tend to experience tinnitus more often.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Tinnitus

Your ENT specialist will likely be able to diagnose your tinnitus by asking a few simple questions such as:

  • When did the ringing start?
  • How would you describe the ringing sound?
  • Is it ringing in one ear or both?

Additionally, an examination of your hears as well as a hearing test may be performed. Generally, the majority of tinnitus cases will go away on their own and won’t require any additional treatment. Although tinnitus will go away you may be able to reduce your symptoms by doing the following:

  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
  • Stopping tobacco use
  • Relaxing. Stress and lack of sleep can make your symptoms worse
  • Covering up, or masking, the noise in your ear with soft music or white noise
  • Limiting exposure to loud noises
  • Limiting use of aspirin
  • Taking vitamin supplements. Researchers have found they may have some benefits for ongoing tinnitus
  • Wearing hearing aids, which can amplify regular sounds and minimize the ringing sound
  • Exercising regularly

Preventing Tinnitus

There are steps you can take to help prevent ringing in your ears, including:

  • Stop using nicotine, which can reduce blood flow to the structures inside your ear and cause tinnitus
  • Exercise regularly to improve blood blow to the structures inside your ear
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Tinnitus happens more often in obese adults.
  • Avoid loud noises like music, heavy machinery and power tools. If you can’t avoid loud noises, wear ear protection.
  • Keep your headphone volume at a reasonable level
  • Cut back on alcohol and drinks with caffeine

If you have tinnitus that is impacting your quality of life, talk to your Mercy doctor. We want to help you get back to hearing the world around you with comfort and clarity.   


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