Ringing in the Ears (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. 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 doctor will likely be able to diagnose your tinnitus by asking a few simple questions like:

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

Your doctor will examine your ears and may also order a hearing test.

Most tinnitus will go away on its own and won’t require any treatment. You may be able to reduce your symptoms by doing the following:

  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
  • Stopping tobacco use
  • Limiting use of aspirin
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting exposure to loud noises
  • 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
  • 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

Preventing Tinnitus

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

  • 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
  • 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.

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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