Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)

Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)
Imagine hearing a ringing noise in your ears or head that doesn’t go away. This maddening noise, called tinnitus, can range in volume from a ring to a roar. It affects nearly 36 million Americans, most of them older adults. Seven million people are so seriously bothered by tinnitus that living a normal life is not possible. Tinnitus can, in fact, interfere with work, sleep, and normal communication with others.

Like a toothache, tinnitus isn’t a disease in itself, but a symptom of another problem. Examples are:

  • Ear wax blocking the ear canals.
  • Food allergies.
  • Reactions to medications.
  • Middle-ear trauma or infections.
  • Blood vessel abnormalities in the brain.
  • Ear nerve damage due to exposure to loud noise.
  • Anemia.
  • Meniere’s disease.
  • Diabetes.
  • Brain tumors (rarely).

And sometimes, tinnitus is due simply to advancing age. It often accompanies loss of hearing. Often, tinnitus is temporary and will not lead to deafness. Treatment is aimed at finding and treating the problem that causes the tinnitus.

Self-Care Tips

  • For mild cases of tinnitus, play the radio or a white noise tape (white noise is a low, constant sound) in the background to help mask the tinnitus.
  • Biofeedback or other relaxation techniques can help you calm down and concentrate, shifting your attention away from the tinnitus. Relaxation can reduce stress, which can aggravate tinnitus.
  • Exercise regularly to promote good blood circulation.
  • Ask your doctor or a Certified Audiologist about a recently developed tinnitus masker, which looks like a hearing aid. Worn on the ear, it makes a subtle noise that masks the tinnitus without interfering with hearing and speech.
  • If the noises started during or after traveling in an airplane, try pinching your nostrils and blowing through your nose. Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy may help prevent the popping and ringing sounds in the ear from happening when you do fly. Also, it is prudent to avoid flying when you have an upper respiratory tract or ear infection.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and aspirin.
  • Wear earplugs when exposed to loud noises such as heavy machinery etc., to prevent damage to the ear.

Questions to Ask

Do you have severe pain in the ears, forehead or over the cheekbones, a severe headache, dizziness and/or sudden loss of hearing?
Yes: Seek Emergency Care

Have you been taking aspirin, or other medications containing salicylates such as Trilisate or Disalcid (which are sometimes used to treat arthritis). And do you have these problems with ringing in the ears?

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Hallucinations

Yes: Seek Emergency Care

Along with ringing in the ears, do you have one or more of the following?

  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Unsteadiness in walking
  • Loss of balance
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden hearing loss

Yes: Call Doctor
Provide Self-Care

Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism

© American Institute for Preventive Medicine

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021