If you’ve ever been to a loud concert then chances are good that you’ve dealt with ear ringing afterward; however, if you’re experiencing ringing in the ears regularly and symptoms seem to appear out of the blue, then you could have a condition known as tinnitus.
Tinnitus is the result of damage to hair cells within the inner ear. Tinnitus is most often characterized as a ringing in the ear, but others may hear a clicking, hissing, or whizzing sound. You may hear it in one ear or both and sometimes it can be loud.
While tinnitus isn’t dangerous it can certainly be annoying, especially if it’s loud or happening regularly. If symptoms are severe it may even affect your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Along with exposure to loud noises (often from occupations in the construction or music industries), there are other causes of tinnitus including:
- A head injury
- Impacted wax or wax buildup
- Meniere’s disease (a condition of the inner ear)
- Certain medications (e.g. antibiotics; medication for blood pressure)
Can tinnitus be cured?
If tinnitus is the result of something simple like caffeine or impacted wax, then simply remove the wax or eliminate caffeine from your diet. Sometimes tinnitus will simply go away on its own.
Even though there isn’t anything that can cure tinnitus, your ENT doctor can provide you with a variety of treatment options to make living with tinnitus easier, such as:
- Adding white noise to your room (e.g. turning on a fan)
- Altering your medication (if medication is causing your symptoms, talk with your doctor before stopping or replacing medication)
- Wearing a hearing aid
- Trying acupuncture or alternative treatments, which may also provide relief
- Wearing earplugs to protect your hearing from further noise exposure, especially when operating loud machines (e.g. lawnmower; blender)
- Keeping your ears clean and seeing your doctor regularly if you are prone to ear wax impaction
When should I see a doctor?
If you are experiencing ringing ears that persist for weeks, then it’s time to see a doctor for an evaluation. If you also experience dizziness or hearing loss in one or both ears this could be a symptom of Meniere’s disease, and you should see your doctor right away.
If you are concerned about ringing ears, dizziness, or other problems affecting your ear health, then call an ENT specialist to find out what’s going on and how to best treat it.