February 8, 2023

Understanding That Ringing in Your Ears

General Health

Many people experience a persistent ringing in their ears. This common affliction is known as tinnitus, which affects 30 million Americans.1 Tinnitus is the perception of sound when none is occurring. For some, it is a minor nuisance. But for others, it is a major impediment to their quality of life.

Tinnitus isn’t a disease itself but a symptom. As such, it can occur as a result of several conditions. These include hearing loss, noise exposure, head or neck trauma, high blood pressure, vascular disorders, heart conditions, ototoxic medications, benign tumors known as acoustic neuromas and impacted earwax. Sometimes, the cause is never determined.

Tinnitus is most often described as a ringing in the ears, but it may also take the form of a buzzing, whooshing, roaring, clicking, hissing or whistling sound. Side effects can include fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability and memory/concentration problems.

The good news is that there are treatment options. In rare cases, the underlying condition responsible for the symptoms can be found and treated. More commonly, doctors will employ a tinnitus management strategy. The most popular is white noise therapy. This treatment uses random sound frequencies distributed throughout the hearing spectrum to disguise the persistent background noises. Over time, many patients learn to stop noticing the sounds.

A similar concept involves acoustic neural stimulation. Acoustic signals are delivered through a handheld device, helping the neural circuits become desensitized to the noise. Patients with hearing aids can also turn up the volume and drown out the annoying ringing noises associated with tinnitus.

If you are experiencing tinnitus symptoms, contact an audiologist at Fort HealthCare Audiology at 920.563.6667 in Fort Atkinson or 262.473.8920 in Whitewater to explore your options and schedule a tinnitus evaluation.

American Academy of Audiology. (n.d.). Tinnitus: ringing in the ear. https://www.audiology.org/consumers-and-patients/hearing-and-balance/tinnitus/