Tinnitus is the cause of ringing in the ears

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner


By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE



Tinnitus is the cause of ringing in the ears



Dear Pam,

I’ve been having a ringing in my ears and am not sure if I should be worried? Is this unusual?

Tinnitus is the name for those head noises, and they are very common, as nearly 35 million Americans suffer from this discomfort. Tinnitus may come and go, or you may be aware of a continuous sound.

It can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal or whine, and you may hear it in one or both ears.

When the ringing is constant, it can be annoying and distracting. More than 7 million people are afflicted so severely that they cannot lead normal lives.

There are many causes for tinnitus, the noise only you can hear. Some causes are not serious (a small plug of wax in the ear canal might cause temporary tinnitus).

Tinnitus can also be a symptom of stiffening of the middle ear bones.

Tinnitus may also be caused by allergy, high or low blood pressure (blood circulation problems), a tumor, diabetes, thyroid problems, injury to the head or neck and a variety of other causes including medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, sedatives/antidepressants and aspirin.

If you take aspirin and your ears ring, talk to your doctor about dosage in relation to your size.

Most tinnitus comes from damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear. The health of these nerve endings is important for acute hearing, and injury to them brings on hearing loss and often tinnitus.

Advancing age is generally accompanied by a certain amount of hearing nerve impairment and tinnitus.

Exposure to loud noises is probably the leading cause of tinnitus in the younger population and often damages hearing as well.

In most cases, there is no specific treatment for ear and head noise. To find the cause of tinnitus, extensive testing including x-rays, balance tests and laboratory work may be required. Most causes cannot be identified.

Occasionally, medicine may help the noise. The medications used are varied, and several may be tired to see if they help.

The following tips may help lessen the severity of tinnitus:

  • Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises.

  • Get your blood pressure checked. If it is high, get your clinician’s help to control it.
  • Decrease your intake of salt. Salt impairs blood circulation.
  • Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola and tobacco.
  • Exercise daily. It improves your circulation.
  • Get adequate rest.

    Avoid fatigue.

  • Stop worrying about the noise. Recognize your head noise as an annoyance and learn to ignore it as much as possible.

So what can you do to cope? Relaxation techniques can help to control muscle groups and circulation throughout the body.

The increased relaxation and circulation achieved by these exercises can reduce the intensity of tinnitus in some patients.

Tinnitus is usually more bothersome in quiet surroundings.

A competing sound at a constant low level, such as a ticking clock or radio static, may mask the tinnitus and make it less noticeable.

If tinnitus is an ongoing problem, a thorough examination and evaluation by an otolaryngologist doctor would be indicated.

This article was originally published February 2, 2004 in The St. Tammany News.


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