Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) is a condition in which people perceive a noise that seems to originate in the ear or head in the absence of an external source. The ringing sound may be heard in one or both ears, may sound as if it’s within or around the head, or be perceived as an outside distant noise. The ringing noise may be constant or intermittent.
There is no cure for ringing in the ears, but treatments can help. The choice of treatment varies based on the patient’s overall health, the underlying cause, the severity of the condition, and the patient’s preferences.
Treatment of ringing in the ears includes:
- Treatment for hearing loss
- Behavioral therapies to cope with ringing in the ears
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT): retraining the brain to accept ringing in the ears as normal and natural, rather than annoying, so patients become less aware of the sounds
- Masking devices
- Devices that resemble hearing aids which produce low-level sounds to help reduce or eliminate ringing in the ears
- White noise, such as from a white noise machine, fan, or radio on low volume can also help mask ringing in the ears
- Biofeedback and stress reduction
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: teaches patients to manage psychological responses to ringing in the ears using coping strategies, distraction skills, and relaxation techniques
- Stopping medications that are causing ringing in the ears (don’t stop taking a prescribed medication without first talking to your doctor)
- Treatment for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
- Bite realignment
- Dental treatment
- Other therapies
- Treatment for depression that may accompany ringing in the ears
- Treatment for insomnia that may accompany ringing in the ears
What Are Symptoms of Ringing in My Ears (Tinnitus)?
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) involves the perception of sound without the presence of an external source for that sound.
- The sound from tinnitus may be characterized as:
- A high-pitched steady tone (ringing)
- A pulsation that is rushing or humming
- Sound can vary in intensity with exercise or changing body position
- Symptoms that may accompany ringing in the ears include:
What Causes Ringing in My Ears (Tinnitus)?
Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) is usually a symptom of a problem with the auditory (hearing) system. It may be a result of:
- Hearing loss
- Other health conditions
- Stiffening of the bones in the middle ear (otosclerosis)
- Brain tumors
- Blood vessel or heart disease
- Jaw joint (temporomandibular joint) disorders
- Genetic or inherited inner ear disorders
- Neck injuries
- Neurologic disorders
- Severe anxiety
- Tumors within the auditory system
- Certain medications
- Ear and sinus infections
- Ménière’s disease
- Hormonal changes in women
- Thyroid abnormalities
How Is Ringing in My Ears Diagnosed?
A patient history and a physical exam of the ear canal to check for earwax that may be blocking the ear canal is performed.
Ringing in the ears is usually caused by another underlying disorder. Tests used to diagnose the cause of the ringing in the ears include: