Tinnitus is the perception of abnormal ear or head noises. Tinnitus is unpleasant enough itself, and is sometimes a symptom of other problems, including
, tumors, and narrowing of the blood vessels. Noises may be high pitched and “ringing,” or sound more like a clicking. Some tinnitus is pulsatile, which means it may be caused by the flow of blood that accompanies each heart beat, and this happens in cases of narrowing of the blood vessels.
Rare episodes of tinnitus lasting at most a few minutes are quite common in normal people, especially after exposure to loud noises. Be sure to see a doctor for tinnitus that is persistent and/or associated with hearing loss, dizziness, change in personality, speech, or weakness in any body area. Tinnitus that is pulsatile or heard only on one side also generally requires a medical evaluation. Evaluation should be more urgent when tinnitus comes on rapidly, and especially when it is associated with personality change or any loss of bodily function.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
The sensations of tinnitus may have the following characteristics:
Ringing, roaring, buzzing, whistling, or hissing sounds
Intermittent, continuous, or pulsatile quality
Same or varying intensity
Single or multiple tones
Ringing that comes and goes
More annoying symptoms at night or when there are fewer distractions
Sensation of normal internal events such as blood pulsing or muscles contracting
Sometimes tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss and
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Special attention will be paid to your head, neck, and ears.
You will be asked questions about:
Whether breathing, dizziness, or anything else increases or decreases the sensation
The doctor will look at your ear canal and eardrum using an instrument with a light that is held at the external opening of the ear. A tuning fork can help evaluate hearing. You should receive a complete hearing test. Other tests, such as an
, may be ordered to rule out serious conditions.
Tinnitus treatment depends on what is causing the symptoms. This may mean, for example:
Wearing a specially made splint to help manage TMJ
Taking antibiotics for a sinus or ear infection
Removal of wax from the ear canal
Therapy aims to eliminate or reduce bothersome sensations. Treatment may include:
Antidepressants may be helpful in some patients. If Meniere's disease (a relatively common cause of tinnitus) is diagnosed, medications specific to that disorder may be prescribed.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a