What is tinnitus?
(Pronounced= “TIN-ni-tus” or “ti-NIGHT-us.” Both pronunciations are correct.)
Tinnitus is when you experience ringing or other noises in one or both of your ears. The noise you hear is not caused by an external sound, and other people usually cannot hear it.
Tinnitus is most often described as a ringing in the ears. However, it can also cause other types of phantom noises in your ears, including:
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates 10 percent of the U.S. adult population — over 25 million Americans — experience some form of tinnitus.
What causes this ringing in your ears?
Tinnitus is usually caused by an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, an ear injury, or a problem with the circulatory system. According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), around 200 different disorders can cause confusing or distressing noises in your head. For many people, tinnitus improves with treatment of the underlying cause or with other treatments that reduce or mask the noise, making it less noticeable.
What should you do if you think you have tinnitus?
If you begin hearing ringing or other phantom noises, our first recommendation is to visit an Audiologist. Hearing loss is one of the most common causes of tinnitus. By addressing your hearing loss, you can make great strides in improving the ringing in your ears.
Additionally, Audiologists can assist in cleaning earwax buildup, another common cause of tinnitus. Blockages from earwax can put pressure on the nerves that run through your ear canal, causing ringing in your ears.
Ways to improve the ringing in your ears
There is no known cure for tinnitus. However, there are things you can do to help make your symptoms less noticeable:
- Lead a healthy lifestyle- Although there is no research showing a relationship between certain foods or vitamins and improved tinnitus, many people find such things as: salt, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol trigger the ringing in their ears. These substances, especially when used in excess, can affect blood flow and contribute to ringing in your ears. For more on this topic, we encourage you to read “The Role of Diet in Hearing Health” from the ATA.
- Relax- Patients often report their tinnitus is less pronounced when they are relaxed. Engage in activities and behaviors that help you relax.
- Get a good night’s sleep- It can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep when you hear constant ringing in your ears. Try sleeping with a white noise machine, fan, or humidifier/dehumidifier in the bedroom as these devices produce a static sound, which is often an effective treatment for tinnitus.
- Properly tune your hearing aids- For people with hearing loss who experience tinnitus, we have found properly tuning the person’s hearing aids helps alleviate the sounds the brain is sending. For more tenacious ringing that continues even while wearing properly tuned hearing aids, there is a “masking program” that can be installed.
Tinnitus can be incredibly bothersome, and we want to help you manage these symptoms! Our expert Audiology Team is here to help. Schedule a free consultation at our Charlotte or Monroe Clinic by calling (704) 523-8027.