Learn about triggers and solutions for ringing in ears
Tinnitus is the medical term for a recurring ‘ringing-in-ears’ type noise, which is not attributable to an outside source. Tinnitus can adversely affect as many as 17% of the world’s population at some time, but that figure is based on the individuals who actually seek tinnitus treatment. Most people will have tinnitus (albeit briefly) during their lifetime. Although it is known as ringing in ears, people report a number of different sounds including buzzing, humming, grinding, hissing, whistling and sizzling, to name but a few. Some experience the noise beating in time with their heart rate and this is commonly known as ‘pulsatile tinnitus’.
Our job is to assess your hearing overall, investigate the underlying cause of the condition and advise you of your options. While there is no cure as such, tinnitus treatment is about management. There are many ways to manage your tinnitus, from informal ‘white noise’ tricks such as a low radio tuned off station to help you sleep, to relaxation exercises to help reduce stress levels. Hearing aids or specialised masking devices can also reduce or even mask tinnitus by amplifying external sounds to distract the brain from focusing on the tinnitus.
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Causes for tinnitus/ringing in ears
Tinnitus/ringing in ears can be slightly annoying at best and chronically irritating at worst, resulting in a loss of concentration, sleep problems and even depression, but emotional reactions to tinnitus can make the condition worse. The known aggravators of tinnitus vary from person to person, but common tinnitus triggers include:
- Loud noises
- Aspirin & other medications/drugs
- Some foods
Tinnitus is not a disease, but a symptom of a problem in the auditory pathway in the brain, in the central nervous system (CNS), or possibly damage to the microscopic nerve endings in the cochlea. Causes for tinnitus can include a loud noise (see Hearing Protection), an injury, illness or ear infection or something as simple as an abnormal build-up of wax. Whatever the cause, in most cases ringing in ear symptoms will be associated with hearing loss and it’s important to make an appointment to see an audiologist to make sure there is nothing more serious at play (tinnitus is a side-effect of Ménière’s disease, a condition of the inner ear which can cause balance problems and, on rare occasions, can signal the presence of a significant ear or nerve pathology.