Ringing in the ear, or tinnitus, is a widespread condition that affects an estimated 50 million Americans. Some people describe it as a hissing, roaring, whooshing or buzzing sound. It may be sporadic or constant, and is a symptom of an underlying condition rather than a disease itself. There are many factors that can cause tinnitus.
There are multiple causes of tinnitus. The most common is inner ear damage. There are tiny hairs located in your inner ear that move when exposed to a sound wave. Their movement creates an electrical signal, which is sent through the auditory nerve to your brain. If these hairs become damaged they can begin randomly sending signals to the brain, causing the sensation of hearing sounds that are not there. Damage to these hairs can be caused by exposure to loud noises or age-related hearing loss.
Although a medical procedure can’t make the sound go away completely, there are treatments that make it less of a distraction. The type of treatment taken depends on the underlying condition responsible for the ringing in your ears. Sometimes, simple steps like removing built-up earwax or switching to a new medication can markedly decrease symptoms.
Other treatment options include:
- Hearing Aids. Many people with tinnitus also have hearing loss in one or both ears. Correcting the hearing loss through the use of hearing aids reduces the distracting ringing noise. Click here to learn more.
- Sound Generators. Sound generators are small electronic devices that use sound to make tinnitus less noticeable. Although they do not eliminate the ringing, they do make the noise seem softer or less noticeable. White noise machines, fans, air conditioners and humidifiers can also be used.
- Relaxing. Meditation, mindfulness and relaxation can help to reduce or eliminate stress, which is often a trigger for tinnitus.
- Counseling. Those with tinnitus are more prone to stress, anxiety and depression. Talking with a healthcare professional or others in a support group can be helpful.