We’ll help you do something about that ringing in your ears.
Tinnitus is a persistent ringing in the ears that affects an estimated one out of every five people. It is often described as a ringing in the ear, though some people report a hissing, roaring, whooshing, buzzing or whistling noise instead. It can be intermittent or constant, and it ranges in severity.
Tinnitus can be a real nuisance, but it’s rarely the sign of a serious condition. It may be the result of aging, noise exposure, infections, allergies, earwax impaction or medications.
Depending on the cause, there may be a solution to help reduce the symptoms.
Causes and underlying conditions
Tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease—it’s the result of an underlying condition. Among the possible culprits:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Certain disorders, like thyroid diseases and Meniere’s disease
- Earwax buildup
- Hearing loss
- Natural aging
- Noise exposure
- Ototoxic medications
- Trauma to the head or neck
Other factors can exacerbate tinnitus, including some medications, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, and high stress.
Persons who suffer from pulsatile tinnitus can hear a rhythmic pulse that keeps time with their own heartbeat. This rare form of tinnitus is usually the result of vascular irregularities, like abnormal blood flow in the inner ear. Pulsatile tinnitus such as this should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist (ENT physician).
Treatment and management
There is no cure for tinnitus itself, but treatment of the underlying condition may help to bring relief. For instance, removing impacted earwax, switching to a different medication or treating a vascular condition can all bring about a decrease in your symptoms.
The first step to treating tinnitus is to have a comprehensive evaluation of your hearing and your tinnitus. We use an interdisciplinary approach to treat and manage tinnitus. An audiologist can help you to understand the underlying causes of tinnitus, as well as factors that exacerbate it.
Your audiologist will help you build a treatment plan, which may include evaluations and treatment from specialists in multiple disciplines across the UCHealth system.
We work closely with your primary care provider to ensure that you are receiving the proper care for your tinnitus. The audiologist may also incorporate sound therapies, a modified version of Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, hearing aids, tinnitus maskers and other audiology-specific treatment approaches.
Taking steps to prevent hearing loss and tinnitus is always a sound approach.
Use of hearing protection in noisy or loud environments is strongly recommended. When using headphones, remember the “80-90” rule—you can listen at 80 percent of the maximum volume of your music player for 90 minutes per day. Increasing the volume leads to less safe listening time, and decreasing the volume results in longer safe listening time.
Also, please avoid using cotton swabs in your ears as these can cause impacted earwax.