Tinnitus is usually called “ringing in the ears,” although some people may hear other sounds. The sounds may come and go, be continuous, occur in one or both ears, and vary in pitch. This condition could be severe enough to interfere with daily activities.

Symptoms of Tinnitus

If you have tinnitus, you hear sounds that do not originate outside your head. These sounds may include:

  • Ringing
  • Whistling
  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Roaring
  • Humming
  • Hissing
  • Whooshing with your heartbeat (as in rare cases of pulsatile tinnitus)

Causes of Tinnitus

Tinnitus may result from a variety of causes, including the following:

  • Damage to the nerve endings in the inner ear
  • Stiffening of bones in the middle ear
  • Advancing age
  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Allergy
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Tumor
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Head or neck injury
  • Reaction to certain medications
  • Wax buildup
  • Jaw misalignment

Diagnosing Tinnitus

To diagnose tinnitus, your doctor will do a physical exam and take a medical history. They may also perform tests that include:

  • Audiometry exam: This hearing test checks for hearing loss by measuring your response to sounds of various tones and intensities.
  • Imaging tests: Your doctor may order a study, such as a CT scan.

Treatment for Tinnitus

Your health care provider will work with you to develop the best treatment plan based on factors such as your age and overall health, the severity of your tinnitus, and your tolerance for specific medications and procedures.

Currently, there is no known cure for tinnitus. However, your doctor may recommend one of the following treatments to provide relief:

  • Hearing aids: These may benefit some people with tinnitus who have hearing loss by making some sounds louder.
  • Cochlear implants: This option is for those with tinnitus and severe hearing loss. 
  • Maskers: This small electronic device creates a sound that may make the ringing or roaring seem softer so the tinnitus is less noticeable.
  • Medications: Some medications may ease tinnitus by addressing a problem related to the condition or improving mood or sleep.
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy: This therapy uses a combination of counseling and maskers. Otolaryngologists and audiologists can help patients learn to deal with tinnitus.
  • Counseling: A person with tinnitus can meet with a counselor or support group.
  • Relaxation: This may help some people, as stress may worsen tinnitus.

Why Choose Columbia

Our team of physicians and audiologists uses the best available technologies and therapies to care for patients with tinnitus. We understand the disruption tinnitus can cause in your daily life, so we draw from the latest treatments to personalize the right plan for you. Our specialists are skilled in providing care such as programmable hearing aids, implantable hearing devices, and cochlear implants, along with the guidance needed to maximize their benefits.