Tinnitus: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

woman with a minor headache

Many people experience sounds in their ears (or head), known as tinnitus. These sounds are subjective, in that only the person who has tinnitus can hear them. For many, tinnitus presents as a ringing sound, but often tinnitus is perceived as a humming, buzzing, roaring or even music.

For some these sounds are constant, for others they are intermittent. When they are intermittent, tinnitus will generally show up when it’s quiet or after exposure to loud noise.

Common causes of tinnitus

The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss, whether from noise damage (which is the most common) or hearing loss due aging. Other causes include emotional distress, stress, reactions to medications, injuries to the head and neck, etc. 

For most, the first question is why? Why do I hear these sounds in my head? This first question is typically quickly followed by “And how do I get rid of it?”.  For most, there isn’t really a simple answer. The general thought is that the brain is searching for stimuli where there isn’t as much due to the hearing loss (regardless of the cause). The reduced stimuli causes the brain to misinterpret signals from the parts of the nerve that have been damaged. These misinterpretations are perceived as sounds, or, tinnitus. 

Are treatments available?

Unfortunately there is no cure for tinnitus. That being said, when someone with tinnitus has hearing loss, what typically helps reduce or eliminate the tinnitus is bringing sound back to the level it is supposed to be. For example, when someone with hearing loss and tinnitus is properly fit with hearing aids, often the tinnitus improves along with the hearing. 

The more bothersome the tinnitus, the more likely it is that other solutions may be needed to manage it. Besides hearing aids, some find solace in playing nature sounds and music, utilizing devices with sound generators, or listening to audio books. Other solutions include yoga and meditation, a healthy diet and exercise, wearing hearing protection when around loud noise, sound generators, good sleep practices, reducing caffeine intake, etc. 

What should you do?

The first step to managing your tinnitus is meeting with an audiologist for a comprehensive hearing exam. Once they have a grasp of your hearing status and ability, it will be much easier to come up with a personalized solution for you based on your needs and the severity of your tinnitus. Please feel free to reach out to me via the contact us button on this site or through my office if you have any questions about your tinnitus or if you would like to make an appointment!