By Joan Whetzel
It’s not uncommon for people to hear any abnormal noise (ringing, roaring, hissing, buzzing or tinkling) in the ears, from time to time. This ringing is usually just a passing thing, lasting but a few moments, and requiring no treatment or attention from a doctor. However, sometimes the ringing continues indefinitely.
What Is Ringing in the Ears?
Ringing in the ears is condition called tinnitus, and can include a ringing or roaring in the ears that obviously does not come from anywhere in the person’s surroundings. The sound may take on a throbbing nature, meaning it pulses at the same rate as the person’s heart rate or breathing (pulsatile tinnitus). The tinnitus may be constant or it may be intermittent. The condition can arise from any of the four ear sections: outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, or the section of the brain that process information obtained from the ears (nonpulsatile tinnitus, caused by troubles with nerves concerned with hearing). Tinnitus is most common in people over the age of 40, and occurs in men more often than women.
Causes of Ringing in the Ears
Aging is the most common cause for tinnitus, followed closely by living or working conditions that involve loud noises of a long-term nature (acoustic trauma). There are other causes for ringing in the ears:
- · Earwax buildup.
- · Medication side effects, most commonly after taking large amounts of antibiotics and aspirin.
- · Excessive intake of alcohol or caffeinated drinks.
- · Ear infections,.
- · Ruptured eardrums.
- · Dental problems such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) problems.
- · Whiplash or blunt force injuries to the head or ears.
- · Inner ear injuries induced by head or neck surgery or radiation treatments.
- · Barotrauma, which is a rapid change in environmental pressure, such as that suffered during air travel or rising too quickly from scuba diving.
- · Drastic weight loss from excessive dieting or from a disease process leading to malnutrition.
- · Problems with blood flow in the blood vessels of the neck and hypertension.
- · Nerve problems (multiple sclerosis, migraines).
- · Other diseases: acoustic neuroma, anemia, labyrinthitis, tumors of the hearing nerves or the bones of the ear, otosclerosis, epilepsy, Lasa Fever neurofibromatosis, chronic interstitial nephritis, or thyroid disease.
In addition the following drugs may cause ringing in the ears:
- · Withdrawal from Ativan
- · Chemical poisoning with: Aniline, Benzene, Dichlorpheamide
- · Darvocet, antibiotic, or aspirin overdose
Symptoms Coinciding with Ringing in the Ears
Symptoms and other conditions that a person should look for include:
- · Ringing in the ears after a head injury has occurred.
- · Ringing in the ears along with ear pain, drainage, or fever
- · Symptoms of nerve damage to the hearing nerves.
- · The addition of other symptoms along with the tinnitus (dizziness)
- · Ear injuries
- · Possible medication side effects.
- · Length of time the ringing in the ears has lasted.
Tinnitus is not a disease in itself, but is considered a symptom of some larger disease process. It should be investigated by a physician so appropriate treatment can be started in order to alleviate or permanently end the ringing in the ears.
Treatment for Ringing in the Ears
If the ringing in the ears is persistent or occurs with other symptoms, it is best to see a physician to determine the cause. The first and most important step in treatment is testing to find the cause of the ringing in the ears. Testing begins with an audiogram (hearing test) and is followed by any tests necessary to pinpoint the cause
- drug tests, in cases of too much medication
- x-rays, MRIs and CAT scans to locate problems in the ear and brain, or look for signs of head and ear injuries.
- angiogram to look for blood flow problems.
- history and physical exam.
Once the cause has been pinpointed, the treatment can begin. Treatments may include:
- · Cutting back on salt, alcohol or caffeinated beverages, or cutting them out all together.
- · Quit smoking or using other tobacco products.
- · Limiting intake of aspirin or other medications that may be causing the tinnitus.
- · Regular exercise to improve blood flow to the ears and brain and to lower blood pressure.
- · Limiting or avoiding exposure to loud noises.
- · Re-focusing your attention on other things besides the ringing sensation.
- · Meditation and other relaxation techniques as a means of stress relief.
- · Use white noise or other low-grade background noise to distract the ears from the ringing sensation.
- · Some people find ginkgo biloba, zinc, or niacin helpful in reducing the symptoms of tinnitus.
· High doses of gabapentin (Neurontin, Gabarone) have been known to reduce the symptoms.
· Acamprosate (Campral), an alcohol treatment drug, has shown to have a nearly 87% rate in the relief of symptoms in a study in Brazil.
There are times, however when no treatment seems to work, when the tinnitus gets so severe it becomes a disability, or when the tinnitus simply clears up on its own - despite the treatment or lack of one. It will always be worth seeing a physician for this pesky problem, if for no other reason than to rule out a serious or life threatening cause. Once the cause is known, the treatment can hopefully alleviate the problems associated with ringing in the ears.
WebMD. Ringing in the Ear (Tinnitus).
Cunha, John P., DO, FACOEP. MedicineNet.com Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ear).
Right Diagnosis. Ringing in Ears.
Ringing in the Ears Treatment. How to Cure Tinnitus Naturally.
Ear Problems: How to Cure Ringing in the Ear
Judy Specht from California on January 27, 2013:
Never knew weight loss could cause ringing in the ears.
My ears ring often. The are homeopathic treatments that are helpful.