Tinnitus can cause an almost non-stop ringing, clicking, hissing, roaring or buzzing sound in the ears. It may be present in both ears or just in one.
Ericka kept having the sensation of ears ringing
Erika’s ears were always buzzing and not because someone was talking about her. She had a constant, almost non-stop sensation of her ears ringing that was making her life miserable. “I thought I would go nuts,” she said, “I just needed it to stop.”
She made an appointment with an ENT (an ear, nose and throat specialist) and, after a few tests, found that her problem had been caused by a buildup of cerumen (earwax). Erika was relieved to find out that there was a simple treatment. “I felt so silly. I had put off going for weeks and all it was, was a buildup of wax.”
Suffering, But Certainly Not in Silence
According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communications Disorders, over 22 million adults in the US suffer from some form of tinnitus. Some researchers put the number as high as 36 million Americans.
Beyond being simply annoying, tinnitus can interfere with daily activities. It can also be a warning that there is a more serious medical issue (such as hearing loss) that needs attention.
What Causes Tinnitus (ears ringing)?
Tinnitus is a relatively common ailment. Sometimes it is a side effect of taking a particular medication (either an over-the-counter medication, or a prescription given by your doctor to treat some other problem).
It can also be linked to an ear infection or environmental factors (for instance, loud noises at a concert or workplace). Even an obstruction within the ear canal, such as in the case of Erika, can bring on the symptoms of tinnitus. Sometimes it is a complication of a viral or bacterial infection.
Other typical reasons for ringing in the ears include:
- Issues or obstructions in or around the blood vessels of the ear
- The first signs of hearing loss
- Problems with the auditory nerve or the cochlea
- High blood pressure
In rare cases, the underlying cause may not be readily apparent. Doctors often refer to this as an “idiopathic condition,” meaning that the reason for the symptom cannot be determined.
Whatever the cause, most patients just want relief. The best course of action is to make an appointment with your ENT doctor. He or she can perform the necessary tests, determine a plan of action and provide the required treatment for your tinnitus.
Dealing with the Noise
Treatments vary, but often include medications such as ear drops, antibiotics, antivirals, steroids or other prescription medications as needed. Sometimes it may include changes in the patient’s diet. Or a recommendation in stopping certain medications like aspirin or NSAIDS.
If the cause is a hearing loss, hearing aids may help with the tinnitus. Also hearing protection is very important in patients with tinnitus secondary to noise induced hearing loss. Continued loud noises can make tinnitus worse.
Remember, symptoms are like the check engine lights on your car. They are the only way your body has to get your attention.
Most of the time, tinnitus does not mean that you have a serious illness, but you still need to get it checked out.