Why Are My Ears Ringing?

About one in 10 adults in the United States is walking around with an annoying ringing, buzzing, or humming sound in his or her ears. For some, it’s a whistling sound or a chirp or even a roar. It can go away as suddenly as it came ó or it can last for years.

Subjective tinnitus is a sound you hear in your head, but there’s no external source for that sound.

A recent study published in JAMA showed that in some cases, that annoying sound that isn’t really there can become a quality of life issue.

What causes tinnitus?

In objective tinnitus, the sound is caused by some internal function of your body such as blood flow. It only accounts for about one percent of all cases, though. The other 99 percent is subjective tinnitus. The cause can’t always be determined, but the American Tinnitus Association lists these potential sources:

  • age-related hearing loss
  • noise-induced hearing loss
  • middle ear blockages caused by ear wax, congestion, dirt, or foreign objects
  • trauma to the head or neck
  • temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • sinus pressure due to cold, flu, or sinus infection
  • extreme pressure changes brought on by diving, snorkeling, flying, explosive blasts, or traumatic brain injury
  • certain prescription medications
  • a variety of medical conditions including high blood pressure, anemia, and anxiety

The most likely cause is exposure to loud noises. Both sudden loud noises (such as an engine that backfires) or exposure over time (such as working around loud machinery) can do it, and it can affect one or both ears.

Who gets tinnitus?

Unfortunately, it can happen to anyone, but the older you get, the more likely it is. It also tends to affect men more than women. Your risk is higher if you:

  • work in a loud environment
  • are in the military
  • are exposed to gunfire, sirens, or loud engines
  • are a musician, attend loud concerts, or like to pump up the volume in your earphones

How can I make it stop?

There are a few things you can do to try to manage tinnitus. Your best bet is probably to use a white noise machine to help block out the sound, especially at night.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these treatments have been tried, but there’s little evidence that they work:

  • acupuncture
  • hypnosis
  • ginkgo biloba
  • zinc
  • B vitamins

Should I see a doctor?

Almost all of us have a bout of ringing in our ears at one time or other. It’s usually temporary. Getting back to the study, fewer than half of people with tinnitus ever discuss it with a doctor.

If your tinnitus doesn’t improve and it’s starting to get on your nerves, see your doctor or hearing specialist. It may be a fairly common problem, but that doesn’t make it less stressful. It’s a good idea to get a hearing test or check for underlying illness so those problems can be addressed.

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Image Credit: Thinkstock

172 comments

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 months ago

Thanks

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Leo C
Leo C3 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R3 months ago

Thank you!

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Toni W
Toni W3 months ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W3 months ago

TYFS

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Janis K
Janis K3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s3 months ago

Thank you

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Angel W
Past Member 3 months ago

sometimes it happens.
I get scared

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KimJ M
KimJ M3 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M3 months ago

Tfs

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