Some people experience a ringing in their ear(s) but what is it and how is it caused? Tinnitus is the medical term used to describe this “ringing” that can be perceived as a few different sounds to the person experiencing it. This ringing can sound like a roaring, chirping, pulsing, high pitched or low pitched squeal etc. Tinnitus can be constant, vary in loudness, or only appear in certain situations. Tinnitus can disrupt a person’s daily life and sleep which can be incredibly distressing. 

What Causes Tinnitus?

There is no agreed upon reason for tinnitus but there are some theories and in some cases a direct cause. 

Medications: Many medications today will list Tinnitus as a side effect of that medication. In medication-induced tinnitus, the ringing will likely subside after discontinuation of the medication. It is important to speak with your doctor before discontinuing any medication you were prescribed.

Hearing Loss: One theory to the cause of tinnitus is directly related to hearing loss. This specific type of hearing loss is due to the hair cells in your hearing organ that are damaged. This theory states that your brain will attempt to “fill in” the sound it is missing at the specific frequency that the hair cells are damaged and no longer provide input. When a hearing care professional conducts a tinnitus evaluation they use a specific method to match the frequency and pitch of the tinnitus. Which will most likely coincide with a hearing loss indicated by an audiogram. 

Medical Conditions/Illness: In other cases, tinnitus is a symptom of a medical condition or illness. This can include glomus tumor, Meniere’s Disease, ear infections, injury to the head/neck, or jaw. It is important to note other symptoms that are occuring to the ringing or the onset of ringing.

 

Tinnitus Treatment 

There are a few ways that tinnitus can be managed; there is no permanent treatment for tinnitus. 

  • Noise Machines- White noise machines may help when a person is struggling to sleep at night. It can help suppress the ringing.  

  • Hearing Aids- By providing the stimulation back to the brain the tinnitus can subside due to less need for it to “fill in” the missing sound.

  • Diet- reducing caffeine and sodium intake with a healthy diet can help relieve or reduce ringing of the ears. 

  • Changing Medication- Speak with a doctor about changing medication with tinnitus side effects.

  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)- A specialized therapy designed to help a person cope and retrain their brain to their tinnitus. 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- Another type of therapy designed to help a person cope and adapt to their tinnitus. 

  • Treatment of the Medical Condition– If the ringing is related to a specific condition treating that condition may help reduce or relieve the ringing. 

 

Tinnitus can be an especially distressing experience. Seek help from a professional to tackle the specific tinnitus and get the appropriate tools for managing the ringing. Visit your local hearing care professional or audiologist to discuss tinnitus.