Persistent ringing in the ears is a symptom, known as tinnitus. It can be described as hearing a constant ringing or buzzing sound in the ear, which actually does not exist. Tinnitus is often very irritating and disrupts the normal daily routine of the person suffering from it. People even report extreme difficulty sleeping because of their tinnitus. Luckily, there are many ways of coping with tinnitus, either by removing it altogether or using devices to diminish it.

What causes tinnitus?

Medical science states that tinnitus can be caused by anything that affects or damages the auditory system. It is our brain’s sensorineural response to such damage. In cases where the damage is temporary and can be reversed, the tinnitus symptoms also alleviate with the underlying condition. However, if the damage is permanent, the tinnitus is normally permanent too. Here are some common causes of tinnitus:

  • Hearing loss: Age-related and noise-induced hearing loss can both accompanied by tinnitus in most patients. You may have noticed ringing in your ears if you just returned from a very loud musical concert. Similarly, the elderly population suffering from age-related hearing loss also commonly complain of tinnitus.
  • Something blocking the middle ear: A ball of earwax, any foreign object or head congestion can cause a buildup of pressure in the middle ear that does not let the eardrum move like it is supposed to. In response, the brain shows tinnitus symptoms that may be temporary or permanent.
  • Head injury: Injury to the head or neck can cause nerve, blood flow or muscle problems, which are the leading causes of tinnitus. Patients of such injury report very loud tinnitus that may change its location and frequency.
  • Disorder of the jawbone: The joint of lower jawbone, scientifically known as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), shares some nerve connections with the middle ear. Any damage to the ligaments, cartilage, or muscles of the TMJ can affect the auditory system, leading to a possibility of tinnitus.
  • Sinus pressure: Pressure buildup in the middle ear due to a sinus infection or a nasal congestion may lead to tinnitus because it can affect the normal hearing of the ears. Extreme sports activities, such as scuba diving, deep sea diving, snorkeling and flying during extreme elevation changes, can have the same impact.
  • Brain injury: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is often caused by concussive shock, which may damage the hearing center in the brain. This is a common cause of tinnitus in most veterans and athletes.
  • Drugs: Some prescription drugs may cause temporary tinnitus, whereas certain ototoxic drugs are known to cause permanent tinnitus in patients. 

How do you treat tinnitus?

Currently, there is no direct cure for tinnitus. Patients that have tinnitus will work closely with their audiologist to manage it by using well-established tools and treatments to relieve tinnitus. Hearing aids and masking devices work to help block out the sounds of tinnitus, while therapy is available to help the individual better cope.

If you’re experiencing a buzzing or ringing in your ears, contact an audiologist in your area and discuss options to find the relief you need!