About 15% of the population experiences ringing in their ears at one time or another. This condition is known as tinnitus. Tinnitus can seem harmless in some ways because it causes no pain and is not contagious. However, it can affect your mood, interactions with others and quality of life. Knowing the cause, whether it’s an infection, injury to the head or damage to the ear, can help you get treatment.
What Causes Ringing In Your Ears?
There are many conditions that can cause ringing in your ears. Some people experience tinnitus along with hearing loss, usually caused by damage to the inner ear. Prolonged exposure to loud noises or sudden exposure to a very loud noise can cause tinnitus. Sometimes tinnitus from loud noises goes away after the hairs in the inner ear recover from the exposure, other times the damage is permanent. Other common reasons people experience tinnitus:
- Head and neck injuries. Car accidents, airbag deployment, traumatic brain injury and whiplash all can cause tinnitus.
- Medications. Quinine, diuretics, cancer medication, antidepressants and abnormally high doses of aspirin are all medicines that can cause ringing in your ears.
- Vascular problems. Vascular problems like high blood pressure and aneurysm can cause tinnitus.
- Tumor. Some tumors can cause tinnitus by putting pressure on the nerve that runs from the brain to the inner ear.
Can Ringing In the Ear Be Caused By an Infection?
Yes, ringing in the ear can be caused by an infection. Colds and upper respiratory infections can cause blockages in the ear, which in turn can cause tinnitus. The appearance of ringing in the ear as the result of an infection isn’t necessarily a medical emergency, but you should see your doctor if it doesn’t go away after about a week.
If Ringing In the Ear Is Caused By an Infection, Will It Go Away?
Ringing should go away with the infection, but some infections can be long-lived, and sometimes an infection can cause damage to the inner ear. Seeing a doctor in the early stages of the infection can help you get medical treatment for your condition, which in turn can help you treat the infection properly. If the infection causes damage to the inner ear, the ringing could be permanent.
What Are the Symptoms of Tinnitus?
Tinnitus symptoms can come on suddenly and loudly, or can happen gradually over a long time. Most people think of tinnitus as a ringing in the ears, but it doesn’t have to be ringing. Tinnitus can be a clicking, whooshing or hissing. Some people hear the sound of music. Tinnitus can be intermittent or continuous, in one ear or two.
Sometimes tinnitus can even be heard by a doctor during an examination if the tinnitus is being caused by something in the body that makes noise.
Some types of tinnitus are less likely to be caused by an infection than others. For example, clicking sounds are usually caused by muscle contractions. The contractions happen in bursts, thus the clicking noises themselves happen in bursts.
If you can hear your own heartbeat in your ears, this could be an indication of a blockage inside the ear, which could be a symptom of an infection. Talk to your doctor about the sounds you’re hearing. Your physician or audiologist can help you determine the cause (or at least rule out some causes), which could help you determine a course of treatment.
What Are the Treatments for Tinnitus?
If your tinnitus is the result of an easy-to-solve problem, like a medication that’s causing ringing, your physician will simply help you get the treatment you need to stop the problem. If your physician or audiologist determines that the tinnitus is occurring as the result of damage to your inner ear, and therefore cannot be completely stopped, your physician will recommend treatments that can improve your quality of life.
White noise helps drown out the noise you can hear in silent rooms. Because tinnitus is distracting, white noise deadens the sound from tinnitus and makes it easier to concentrate on something else. White noise machines can also help you sleep if the sound of your tinnitus makes sleeping difficult.
Tinnitus can be stressful, and stress can make tinnitus worse. Many people find that tinnitus can add to their anxiety while making them less resilient to stressful situations. Tinnitus can also lead to a lot of frustration. People who suffer from tinnitus often need to go to counseling to manage their heightened anxiety or frustration.
Tinnitus and hearing loss often go hand in hand. In addition, tinnitus can make hearing sounds more difficult. Hearing aids can amplify real noises in the environment to make them easier to hear, thus making it easier to have a normal conversation. Before you can get hearing aids, work with your audiologist to determine your level of hearing loss and what should be done about it.
Take Care Of Yourself
Because tinnitus and stress are so closely linked, it’s important for people who are affected by tinnitus to take care of themselves. Good stress management techniques are more important than ever for people who are affected by tinnitus.
- Eat right.
- Get adequate amounts of sleep.
Reduce alcohol consumption. Alcohol dilates your blood vessels and causes your blood pressure to increase, which makes tinnitus worse.
Avoid silence. Silence calls attention to tinnitus, which can make the condition overall harder to live with. Keep white noise makers in your house and install a white noise maker app on your phone. Listening to white noise can keep your stress levels low.
Hear a Ringing In Your Ear? See an Audiologist
Tinnitus affects about 50 million adults in the United States. If you can hear a ringing, clicking, whooshing, rushing, hissing or the sound of music playing in your ear, see an audiologist. While tinnitus is not always treatable, some cases of tinnitus can be. Blockages can be removed. Medications can be changed or switched. Head and neck injuries can mend.
Failure to see a professional early in your condition could lead to complications, which ultimately could prolong your condition and temporarily (or permanently) reduce your quality of life. Contact your audiologist to find out where your tinnitus is coming from, whether the ringing is the result of an infection that can be treated, and what your audiologist can do to take care of the problem.