Unfortunately, it is actually quite common to experience ringing in your ears. It may sound like a gentle buzzing in the background, or the sound may be a high-pitched hum or whine. Each person may experience this condition in a different way. While some people hear a slight buzz continuously, other people only hear a dull white every once in a while.
Technically, ringing in your ears is known as tinnitus. This medical condition can effect someone at any age in their life, but it happens more frequently to people who are over the age of 40. Men and women can experience the problem, but it is more frequently found in men. According to recent estimates, at least one out of ten Americans experiences tinnitus for at least five minutes a year. Unfortunately, there is still no clear cause as to why this happens. From what scientists can tell, tinnitus can occur for a variety of different reasons and may be due to multiple causes instead of a single reason.
What Does It Mean When Your Ears Ring?
According to a traditional superstition, the ringing in your ears happens when someone is talking about you. While this reason may sound cute, it is entirely untrue. Your ears ring for real medical reasons and not because of someone thinking or talking about you. You may experience pulsatile tinnitus or nonpulsatile tinnitus.
Nonpulsatile tinnitus is considered a type of benign tinnitus. This generally happens when one of the nerves in the ears is messed up due to aging or loud noises. When you experience this type of tinnitus, you may hear buzzing or a high-pitched whine that seems like it is coming from within your head.
Pulsatile tinnitus is considered serious. This happens when blood vessels in your neck are not healthy or working properly. If you have pulsatile tinnitus, it is important that you go to the doctor to get checked out. With this type of tinnitus, you may notice a whooshing sound in your ears or the something that sounds like your heartbeat.
There can be many reasons why you experience tinnitus. Among the many reasons, possible causes of ringing in your ears include:
– Drinking too much caffeine
– Excess earwax
– Drinking too much alcohol
– An ear infection
– Thyroid problems
– Weight loss
– Temproromandibular disease (TMJ)
– Medications like antibiotics or aspirin
– Meniere’s disease
– Changes in the barometric pressure around you
– Acoustic neuroma
– Ruptured eardrum
– Hyperextension of your neck
Should I Go to the Doctor?
In general, you will probably need to go to the doctor if you have ringing in your ears. While some causes are not going to be an ongoing problem, other causes of tinnitus could indicate a serious, underlying medical condition. It is important that you go to your doctor to make sure that you are not experiencing a serious medical condition. You may want to go to an audiologist as well to check on the quality of your hearing, and an ear, nose and throat specialist may also provide specialized care for you.
Treatment Options for When Your Ears Ring
Obviously, the best way to treat ringing in the ears is to fix the underlying problem. Ideally, you should find the cause of your tinnitus and treat the cause first. If you are uncertain about why you experiencing this health problem, then your doctor may offer a different treatment option. The following treatments are some of the most common ones prescribed by doctors.
1. Medication Options
Doctors do not generally prescribe medication for tinnitus, but some research studies show that anti-anxiety medication or anti-depressants may help. These are most commonly prescribed if anxiety, sleeping patterns or emotional stress are responsible for the ringing noise.
Until the cause of your tinnitus is known, your doctor may recommend that you avoid certain things that could be worsening it. Your doctor may tell you to avoid nicotine or alcohol since these can change blood flow and cause ringing in the ears. They may suggest that you limit your use of caffeine, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
A therapist can do cognitive behavioral therapy to help you learn how to focus on things other than the ringing in your ears. While this will not actually get rid of your tinnitus, it can help you to sleep at night and enjoy life despite the ringing noise.
4. White Noise Machines
White noise machines help to drown out the ringing in your ears, and they are a very effective, easy way to get a full night of rest at night. The device can be set to noises like the woods, ocean, rain, water or basic white noise as you sleep.
5. Hearing Aid
Sometimes, your doctor will diagnose the cause of tinnitus as due to loss of hearing. If you have lost your hearing in one or both ears, you will most likely need a hearing aid to restore your sense of hearing. Once your hearing has improved, your ears will hear the right balance of sound so that the buzzing noise should go away.
6. Cochlear Implants
Cochlear implants are similar to hearing aids because they help to improve or restore your hearing. They basically work with the auditory nerve to bypass the inner ear. They send a direct impulse to the nerve so that you can hear what is going on in the outside world. This helps because some cases of tinnitus are caused by your ears making up sounds because they are unable to hear. Tinnitus can also be caused by nerve damage in the ears, so a cochlear implant could help.
Relaxation techniques and exercise can help reduce tinnitus. Stress, fatigue and poor blood flow are all shown to make tinnitus worse. Try adopting activities like yoga, meditation, walking, bicycle riding and biofeedback.
8. Limit Your Sound Exposure
Loud noises are one of the most frequent causes of ringing in the ears. When you hear a loud noise, it damages the hairs in your ear that are supposed to help you hear. It is best to turn down your television and music to protect your ears. If you work in a loud environment, use earplugs or sound-canceling ear muffs to protect your ears.
9. Remove Earwax
Sometimes, earwax can become impacted in your ears. This can cause symptoms of tinnitus to worsen. Your doctor can remove the impacted earwax, or you can use an at-home remedy.
10. Sound Generators
Depending on the cause of your tinnitus, your doctor may give you a sound generator to drown the ringing noises that you hear. These sound generators are generally designed to fit within your ear canal. They work like white noise machines by creating a soft sound that is slightly louder than the buzzing that you were hearing. This helps to remove the annoying sound and allows you to live a normal life, although it will not actually treat the underlying cause of tinnitus.
11. Acoustic Nerve Stimulation
An acoustic nerve stimulation device sends a signal of pleasant music to stimulate neural circuits in the mind. It basically works like a cochlear implant, but it does not have to be implanted in the body at all.