Tinnitus is hearing a persistent sound in the ears when no sound is actually present. People describe the sound in different ways, but it is often perceived as a ringing, roaring, hissing, buzzing or clicking sound. Tinnitus can vary quite a bit from person to person. It can be in one or both ears, loud or soft or high or low in pitch. For some, it is a mild but ever-present nuisance, while others have their sleep, work and overall quality of life affected by tinnitus.
Causes of Tinnitus
A variety of different factors can cause someone to get tinnitus. Prolonged exposure to loud noises like machinery or music can cause tinnitus. Certain medical conditions like high blood pressure, anemia, migraines, Meniere's disease, tumors and others can cause tinnitus as a potential symptom or complication. Ear and sinus problems, thyroid disorders or hormonal changes in women also have been known to cause it. Certain medications, as well as too much caffeine or cigarettes, can lead to the development of tinnitus. And stress or wax built up in the ears also can be a contributing factor.
In many cases, the exact cause of tinnitus is difficult to determine, but when it is easy to identify, the treatment usually involves doing something to address that. For example, getting a handle on stress, migraine headaches or high blood pressure can often make the tinnitus go away as a result. In other cases, however, the cause of tinnitus is more difficult to pin down, so treatment becomes more challenging. In these instances, some have had success trying approaches like relaxation therapy, sound machines, hypnosis and electrical stimulation.
SOURCES: U.S. National Institutes of Health; American Speech-Language-Hearing Association