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Tinnitus

Constant Ringing in My Ears – When to Be Concerned

January 23, 2024  3 minute read time

 

Tinnitus is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. It's characterized by a persistent ringing, buzzing or other noises in the ears. While tinnitus is often a mild and temporary annoyance, it can become a distressing and life-altering issue for some individuals. This article will explore the different aspects of tinnitus, including its symptoms, types, causes and when it's essential to seek medical attention.

Tinnitus Symptoms to Look Out For

Tinnitus can manifest in various ways, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears.

  • Hearing noises that no one else can hear.

  • Noise intensity that can vary from low to high.

There are two primary types of tinnitus: pulsatile and non-pulsatile.

Types of Tinnitus

Pulsatile Tinnitus

Pulsatile tinnitus is characterized by a rhythmic pulsing or whooshing sound in the ears, often synchronized with the heartbeat. It can be caused by blood vessel disorders or other vascular issues. While it's less common than non-pulsatile tinnitus, it can be more serious and should be evaluated by a health care professional. While often non-threatening, pulsatile tinnitus can be due to narrowing of blood vessels such as the carotid artery or jugular vein, and can also be due to aneurysms or tumors. For these reasons, it is usually evaluated by different types of imaging. Often, when associated with headaches, pulsatile tinnitus can be due to increased pressure inside the head and may also be evaluated in conjunction with a neurologist.

Non-Pulsatile Tinnitus

Non-pulsatile tinnitus is more prevalent and typically characterized by continuous ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears. It can result from a range of factors, including exposure to loud noises, earwax blockages, certain medications or substances, and stress. The most common underlying cause is an associated hearing loss, which many patients do not even realize they have. While generally less concerning than pulsatile tinnitus, it can still affect quality of life.

What Causes Tinnitus

Tinnitus can be caused by various factors, including loud noise exposure, earwax buildup, age-related hearing loss and underlying medical conditions like Meniere's disease or otosclerosis. Pulsatile tinnitus may result from blood vessel disorders or tumors.

When Should I Be Concerned About Ringing in My Ears (Tinnitus)?

Certain tinnitus symptoms should prompt immediate medical attention. You should consult a physician if you experience:

Pulsatile Tinnitus Of Any Kind

  • Pulsatile tinnitus may be a sign of an underlying vascular issue or other medical conditions. If you experience this type of tinnitus, consult a healthcare provider promptly.

Tinnitus in One Ear Only

  • Tinnitus affecting only one ear may be a sign of a specific ear-related problem or even an acoustic neuroma, which is a benign tumor that is often discovered when a patient has ringing in one ear. A doctor's evaluation is advisable.

Related Dizzy or Nauseous Feelings

  • If tinnitus is accompanied by dizziness or nausea, it could be indicative of a more significant medical issue, such as Meniere's disease. Seek medical attention promptly.

Drainage from Ears

  • Discharge from the ears in conjunction with tinnitus may signal an infection or other ear-related problems. Consult a health care professional.

Associated Hearing Loss

  • If tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss, it may indicate underlying issues with your auditory system. A doctor's evaluation is essential.

 

Ready to see a doctor? If you're hearing a continuous ringing in your ears, talk to a primary care provider today.

What Kind of Doctor Treats Tinnitus?

An otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) or an audiologist typically treats tinnitus. These specialists can diagnose the cause of your tinnitus and recommend appropriate treatments or management strategies.

How do you stop the ringing in your ears?

While there is no direct cure for tinnitus, various treatments can help manage the condition. These may include sound therapy, natural supplements, hearing aids that can utilize a separate feature called masking, cognitive-behavioral therapy or medication, depending on the underlying cause.

Frequently Asked Questions

The seriousness of tinnitus varies. While most cases are mild and not cause for concern, it can be a sign of an underlying medical issue in some cases.

Tinnitus can worsen due to factors such as exposure to loud noise, stress, caffeine and certain medications. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can help manage tinnitus.

Doctors can identify the underlying cause of tinnitus and recommend treatments or management strategies tailored to the individual's condition. These may include therapies, hearing aids or medication.

In many cases, tinnitus can be left untreated if it doesn't significantly impact your quality of life. However,it should always be evaluated to ensure it is not due to a serious underlying medical condition.

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