Tinnitus or Ringing in Ears

February 2, 2017

Ringing in the ears or tinnitus, is a condition in which people hear constant or periodic sound originating in the ear rather than in the environment. Tinnitus is typically characterized as a sizzling, ringing in the ears. It can also include buzzing, whistling, hissing, roaring, and clicking. . Surprisingly, musical tunes have been reported as well. e. Chronic tinnitus can cause people to have difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and interfere with work and personal relationships. It may even cause psychological distress. Tinnitus can remain at tolerable background noise levels or become loud enough to interfere with normal activities.

Almost everyone has had tinnitus for a short time after being exposed to extremely loud noise. For example, attending a loud concert can trigger short-lived tinnitus. As many as 50 to 60 million people in the United States suffer from this condition; it’s especially common in people over age 55 and strongly associated with hearing loss. Many people worry that tinnitus is a sign that they are going deaf or have another serious medical problem, but it rarely is.

There are two main types of tinnitus.

  • Pulsatile (like a heartbeat) tinnitus is often caused by sounds created by muscle movements near the ear, changes in the ear canal, or blood flow (vascular) problems in the face or neck. You may hear sounds such as your own pulse or the contractions of your muscles.
  • Nonpulsatile tinnitus is caused by problems in the nerves involved with hearing. You may hear sounds in one or both ears. Sometimes this type of tinnitus is described as coming from inside the head.

Tinnitus is a symptom of something wrong in the auditory system. The auditory nerve becomes shocked, often due to hearing damage, and the brain interprets this as noise. This damage can exist in varying degrees.

Sound waves travel through the ear canal to the middle and inner ear, where hair cells in part of the cochlea help transform sound waves into electrical signals that then travel to the brain’s auditory cortex via the auditory nerve. When hair cells are damaged — by loud noise or ototoxic drugs, for example — the circuits in the brain don’t receive the signals they’re expecting. This stimulates abnormal activity in the neurons, which results in the illusion of sound, or tinnitus.


The most common cause of tinnitus is related to over exposure to noise and music. But there are many potential causes of tinnitus, these include –

  • A buildup of ear-wax.
  • Medicines, especially antibiotics or large amounts of aspirin.
  • Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol or caffeinated beverages.
  • Ear infections or eardrum rupture.
  • Dental or other problems affecting the mouth, such as temporomandibular (TM) problems.
  • Injuries, such as whiplash or a direct blow to the ear or head.
  • Injury to the inner ear following surgery or radiation therapy to the head or neck.
  • A rapid change in environmental pressure (barotrauma).
  • Severe weight loss from malnutrition or excessive dieting.
  • Repeated exercise with the neck in a hyperextended position, such as when bicycle riding.
  • Blood flow (vascular) problems, such as carotid atherosclerosis, arteriovenous (AV) malformations, and high blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Nerve problems (neurologic disorders), such as multiple sclerosis or migraine headache.
  • Other diseases. These may include:
    • Acoustic neuroma.
    • Meniere’s disease.
    • Thyroid disease.
    • Brain Tumors
    • Hormonal changes in women

People who work in noisy environments—such as factory or construction workers, road crews, or even musicians—can develop tinnitus over time when ongoing exposure to noise damages tiny sensory hair cells in the inner ear that help transmit sound to the brain. This is called noise-induced hearing loss. Service members exposed to bomb blasts can develop tinnitus if the shock wave of the explosion squeezes the skull and damages brain tissue in areas that help process sound. In fact, tinnitus is one of the most common service-related disabilities among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Research shows that acute stress can literally divert blood flow from the inner ear’s cochlea and deafen you! Adrenaline causes the ear to become sensitive to nervous impulses that would normally not be perceived. If adrenaline levels drop, sensory perceptions will become less acute, and tinnitus symptoms will ease.


Tinnitus involves the annoying sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. Its symptoms include these types of phantom noises in your ears –

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Clicking
  • Hissing

The phantom noise may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and you may hear it in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it can interfere with your ability to concentrate or hear actual sound. Tinnitus may be present all the time, or it may come and go.

In addition to ringing in the ears, other symptoms associated with tinnitus include –

  • Stress due to fear of tinnitus
  • Ear pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sudden numbness, paralysis, or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body
  • New problems with walking or balance.
  • Sudden vision changes.
  • Drooling or slurred speech.
  • New problems speaking or understanding simple statements, or feeling confused.
  • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches


Conventional Treatment

  • Hearing aids often are helpful for people who have hearing loss along with tinnitus. Using a hearing aid adjusted to carefully control outside sound levels may make it easier to hear.
  • Wearable sound generators are small electronic devices that fit in the ear and use a soft, pleasant sound to help mask the tinnitus. Some people want the masking sound to totally cover up their tinnitus, but most prefer a masking level that is just a bit louder than their tinnitus. The masking sound can be a soft “shhhhhhhhhhh,” random tones, or music.
  • Tabletop sound generators are used as an aid for relaxation or sleep. Placed near the bed, it is programmed generator that plays a pleasant sound such as waves, waterfalls, rain, or the sounds of a summer night.
  • Acoustic neural stimulation is a relatively new technique for people whose tinnitus is very loud or won’t go away. It uses a palm-sized device and headphones to deliver a broadband acoustic signal embedded in music. The treatment helps stimulate change in the neural circuits in the brain, which eventually desensitizes the tinnitus. The device has been shown to be effective in reducing or eliminating tinnitus in a significant number of study volunteers.
  • Cochlear implants are sometimes used in people who have tinnitus along with severe hearing loss. A cochlear implant bypasses the damaged portion of the inner ear and sends electrical signals that directly stimulate the auditory nerve. The device brings in outside sounds that help mask tinnitus and stimulate change in the neural circuits.
  • Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs might be prescribed by your doctor to improve your mood and help you sleep. However, these medications are generally used for only severe tinnitus, as they can cause troublesome side effects, including dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation and heart problems. Alprazolam (Niravam, Xanax) may help reduce tinnitus symptoms, but side effects can include drowsiness and nausea. It can also become habit-forming.

Alternative Medicine



  • Alpha Lipoic Acid – Alpha lipoic acid is considered a vitamin-like chemical that functions as an antioxidant. As such, the substance treats cell damage in the body by restoring vitamin levels including vitamin E and C. The substance has also been shown to improve the function and conduction of neurons, which help transfer signals in the brain.
  • CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a substance that helps convert food into energy. CoQ10 is found in almost every cell in the body, and it is a powerful antioxidant.
  • Ginkgo biloba – Ginkgo biloba is one of the most effective home remedy for tinnitus which is caused due to vascular disorders in the auditory system. Ginkgo improves blood circulation in the capillaries in the auditory system and skull which helps in naturally curing tinnitus.
  • Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) – Several researches have found strong positive correlation between tinnitus (and other auditory disorders) and deficiency of Vitamin B1. Administration of vitamin B12 has been found beneficial in allaying the symptoms of tinnitus.
  • Zinc – Researchers have found a high degree of correlation between zinc deficiency and occurrence of tinnitus. A healthy adult requires 15mg of daily zinc intake. Adding zinc supplements helps alleviate symptoms of tinnitus in a large number of cases.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium is important to the proper functioning of the nervous system and heart. Some tinnitus sufferers have found relief by taking Magnesium supplements under the control of a Medical Practitioner
  • Vitamin A – Vitamin A is stored in the inner ear; its purpose is to make it possible for the ears to interpret sounds correctly. Fruits and vegetables are good natural sources of Vitamin A. No conclusive research on the affect of Vitamin A on tinnitus is available.
  • Vitamin E – Vitamin E increases blood flow to the body including the ears. The resultant increased oxygen supply to the ears may reduce the tinnitus. No conclusive research on the affect of Vitamin E on tinnitus is available.
  • Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) – Clinical trials on Black Cohosh have proved it to be effective in alleviating symptoms of tinnitus.
  • Goldenseal – Goldenseal contains an alkaloid named berberine which has healing properties beneficial in healing lesions in the inner ear.
  • Other herbs for Tinnitus – Castor Oil, Coptis, Horsetail, Mistletoe tea, Onion Juice, Passion flower, Plantain, Ramson juice (if tinnitus is caused by constipation), Rhubarb, Spinach, Sunflower Seeds, Fenugreek Seed Tea, Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor), Valerian Root, Hawthorn, burdock root and gum myrrh are commonly used herbs for treatment of tinnitus.

Complementary Treatment

  • Acupuncture – a traditional Chinese therapy where fine needles are inserted into certain points in the body
  • Aromatherapy – helps you relax through the use of essential oils, massaged into the skin
  • Reflexology – where certain points on the feet are worked on by a therapist
  • Osteopathy – where the body is manipulated and massaged to correct any body skeletal or postural imbalances


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