That Ringing In My Ear — That Hissing, Whistling, Pulsating Tone …

It’s called tinnitus, and for some, it’s a debilitating experience.


What Is Tinnitus? (tin-nuh-tus)

The common misconception about tinnitus is that it’s a disease. Tinnitus is actually a symptom of a possible medical condition that can be characterized by an intermittent or persistent ringing in one or both ears. It is typically only heard by the affected individual.

Many who suffer from tinnitus describe the annoying sound as ringing in the ear, but a whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing sound is also possible. For some, these sounds come and go. But most are not that lucky, and will experience symptoms 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

These phantom sounds may cause only a slight annoyance, or they may severely disrupt everyday life. The American Tinnitus Association estimates more than 50 million Americans suffer from at least occasional bouts of tinnitus.


What Causes Tinnitus?

There are a number of causes, with the most common being exposure to loud noise for a prolonged period of time, and hearing loss. With loud noise exposure, your hearing may be temporarily or permanently damaged, depending upon the loudness of the sound and the length of the exposure. People that suffer hearing loss also commonly have tinnitus.

Repeated temporary damage will lead to permanent damage, which is typically associated with tinnitus. Tinnitus research is ongoing, and the mechanisms that cause tinnitus in the brain and inner ear are being more closely studied. Some possible causes are:

  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Certain medications or combination of medications
  • Diet, including caffeine and alcohol
  • Head trauma
  • Stress
  • Eardrum blockage, possibly from ear wax or foreign object
  • Jaw joint disorders
  • Hearing loss (the most common cause)

In rare cases, tinnitus may be caused by a blood vessel disorder, resulting in pulsatile tinnitus. This type of tinnitus may be caused by a head or neck tumor, a buildup of cholesterol in the circulatory system, high blood pressure, turbulent blood flow, or malformation of the capillaries surrounding the ear. The result is a tinnitus that sends out pulsing signals in conjunction with the flow of your heartbeat.

If you have pulsating tinnitus, you should contact us immediately for a hearing test and then see an Ear, Nose, & Throat physician.


Is There a Cure?

There is currently no cure for tinnitus. We will work with you to identify potential causes for your specific symptoms, and then determine a way to reduce the impact of tinnitus on your daily life. In some instances, changes to your diet or medications may help with your symptoms. Relaxation methods, such as meditation, can also help alleviate the constant ringing in your ears.


What Are the Treatment Options for Tinnitus?

Diagnostic testing by an audiologist and an evaluation by an otologist will rule out possible medical factors that could be causing or contributing to your tinnitus. Because your tinnitus symptoms are personal and unique to you, an in-depth evaluation will help us create a specialized treatment plan for you.

Although there isn’t a single cure for tinnitus, our providers have the knowledge and experience to provide you with treatment methods that can help lessen the impact that tinnitus has on your life. In many cases, the distressing combination of tinnitus and hearing loss can be relieved with AGX® hearing technology.

The number-one treatment for tinnitus is the use of a personal hearing system, even if you don’t have hearing loss. If you also have hearing loss, this technology can also improve your hearing. Wearing hearing aids will very frequently reduce or eliminate your perception of tinnitus. There are a number of treatment options, including:

  • AGX hearing technology: The top treatment for those who experience hearing loss, which can both improve overall hearing ability and eliminate the perception of ringing.
  • Tinnitus program within your hearing technology: Virtually all hearing technologies now have a program specifically to help treat tinnitus. If you do not have hearing loss associated with your tinnitus, this is the perfect option for you. If you do have hearing loss, we can activate this option for you within the technology.
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy: A therapeutic process in which we specialize, and has given relief to many of our patients. Our process is a combination of sound therapy and counseling, which alters the brain’s neural signals and weakens the perception of tinnitus, allowing you to live your daily life far more peacefully.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A type of counseling that helps to change the body’s emotional reaction to tinnitus by altering negative thought patterns and helping to relieve stress.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can tinnitus be cured?
Current research by neurologists suggests that altering certain areas of the brain that respond to sound, or an absence of sound, may provide relief. Experiments to regrow damaged hair cells have also been performed. Regrowth of hair cells means that hearing is restored, which prevents the brain from attempting to fill the void left by damaged or absent hair cells, ultimately ending tinnitus. Both theories are likely years away from clinical trials, which means it will most likely be years until any possible cure hits the market. Curing tinnitus may be possible, but likely not in the near future.
Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?
No. Tinnitus is a symptom of any number of conditions, including hearing loss.
Can tinnitus sound like music?
Yes it can. There is a form of tinnitus call “musical tinnitus” and it can sound like the same song, or several songs, playing over and over. This is typically originating from the brain and not the ears and will frequently go away after some time.
Can tinnitus be directly measured?
Rarely. There is a form of tinnitus referred to as “objective tinnitus” that your doctor can hear. This is typically the result of a blood vessel problem, an inner ear bone condition, or muscle contractions.
Why is tinnitus worse at night?
In our daily lives, sounds around us typically mask, or cover up, tinnitus to some degree. At night, when things are quiet, there’s less noise and fewer mental distractions. If your tinnitus is stress-related, it’s also possible that the cumulative stress of your day has made your symptoms worse.
Are there medications for tinnitus?
Almost all of the “surefire” remedies for tinnitus found on the Internet are based on poor science, questionable case studies, or no real evidence at all. Most of the pills that state they will eliminate tinnitus actually have ingredients in them that can cause or aggravate tinnitus. There are some things you can try to help lessen symptoms, including:
Limiting caffeine
Limiting exposure to loud noises
Lowering your blood pressure
Ingesting less salt
Limiting exposure to alcohol
Reducing stress
Getting plenty of rest