Tinnitus is a persistent “phantom” noise in the ears that affects roughly one out of every five people. It may be described as a ringing, buzzing, roaring, whooshing or hissing sound. For some people, the symptoms are so severe their quality of life is affected. Others experience only occasional or minor episodes that are much less distracting.
What Are the Causes of Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a condition, but rather, a symptom. It is associated with a wide variety of health problems.
Some of the conditions that cause tinnitus include:
- Hearing loss
- Noise exposure
- Presbycusis (natural aging)
- Head/neck trauma
- Earwax buildup
- Meniere’s disease
- Heart conditions
- Vascular disorders
- Acoustic neuroma
If the condition responsible for tinnitus symptoms can be identified, treatment may reduce or eliminate symptoms. However, in many cases the exact cause is unknown. There is no actual cure for tinnitus itself, but strategies for managing the symptoms can prove helpful.
If you wear hearing aids, turning up the volume can cover up the ringing in your ears. Other masking techniques, such as white noise therapy, can prove helpful, as well. There are many electronic devices that incorporate white noise or soothing nature sounds, such as falling rain or ocean waves, but the same effect can be achieved with an air conditioner or fan. Many patients find counseling, education and stress management beneficial. And while there is no specific “tinnitus drug,” certain medications can help alleviate symptoms. Natural remedies such as gingko biloba, zinc and niacin might also help.
You can reduce your odds of developing tinnitus through preventive strategies. Wear hearing protection when exposed to excess noise levels, keep the volume low when listening to music and refrain from inserting objects into your ears.