That Ringing in My Ear — That Hissing, Whistling, Pulsating Tone...

It’s called tinnitus, and for some, it’s a debilitating experience.

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus affects more than 50 million Americans, but not everyone experiences it in the same way. Different people hear different sounds — ringing, pulsing, screeching, hissing, static, whooshing, roaring, even ocean waves — and only they can hear it.

It often accompanies hearing loss, but many other things can generate tinnitus. It’s not a disease; it’s a symptom of damage to the auditory system. It can be temporary or chronic, and it is often debilitating.

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What Causes Tinnitus?

There are a number of causes, the most common being prolonged exposure to loud noise. Unfortunately, we can’t always tell whether your temporary damage will become permanent. Research into the neural or auditory mechanism that produces tinnitus is ongoing, but possible causes are:

Loud noises can be a cause of tinnitus

Exposure to loud noise

Some medications can be a cause of tinnitus

Certain medications

Diet can be a cause of tinnitus


Head Trauma can be a cause of tinnitus

Head Trauma

Stress can be a cause of tinnitus


Blockage can be a cause of tinnitus

Eardrum blockage

Jaw joint disorders can be a cause of tinnitus

Jaw joint disorders

Hearing Loss can be a cause of tinnitus

Hearing loss

In rare cases, tinnitus may be caused by a head or neck tumor, a buildup of cholesterol in the circulatory system, high blood pressure, turbulent blood flow, or malformation of the capillaries surrounding the ear. The result is pulsatile tinnitus, which sends out pulsing signals in conjunction with your heartbeat.

What Is Ototoxicity?

Ototoxicity is usually caused by exposure to or ingestion of medications or chemicals that adversely affect your inner ear. The result is tinnitus, hearing loss, or balance disorders. High doses or long-term use of the following can cause ototoxicity.

Drugs that can cause tinnitus:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anesthetics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antimalarials
  • Vapors, solvents
  • Cardiac medications
  • Glucocorticosteroids
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Psychopharmacologic agents
  • Miscellaneous toxic substances
  • Anti-neoplastics
  • Diuretics

Drugs that can cause more permanent tinnitus symptoms:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Certain cancer medications
  • Water pills and diuretics
  • Quinine-based medications

The effects caused by ototoxic drugs can sometimes be reversed when the drug is stopped. Sometimes, however, the damage is permanent. We can work with your prescribing physician to monitor your hearing and balance systems before and during your treatment to minimize any ototoxic effects.


What Are the Treatment Options for Tinnitus?

There’s no universally effective cure for tinnitus, but there is hope. Relief can come in many forms, from medical treatments to little changes in your lifestyle.

At Home Tinnitus Relief

  • Avoid potential irritants. Start noticing what triggers your tinnitus and reduce your exposure.
  • In quiet settings, white noise such as a fan, music, or low-volume radio static may make the noise from tinnitus less noticeable.
  • Lower your stress levels. Stress can make your tinnitus worse.
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Get an adequate amount of sleep.
  • For some, caffeine worsens tinnitus. Observe the relationship in your life and adjust if necessary.

Medical Treatments to Choose From

Hearing technology
This is the top treatment for those who experience hearing loss. It can both improve overall hearing ability and eliminate the perception of the problematic sound.

Masking devices
An electronic device called a masker fits in the ear similarly to hearing aids. It produces low-level sounds that can lessen or eliminate the perception of the problematic noise.

Tinnitus retraining therapy
A combination of sound therapy and counseling, this process alters the brain’s neural signals and weakens the perception of tinnitus, allowing you to live your daily life far more peacefully.

Cognitive behavioral therapy
A type of counseling that helps to change the body’s emotional reaction to tinnitus by altering negative thought patterns and helping to relieve stress.

Relief Is Possible

Relief from tinnitus is possible with our help. Due to the personal and unique nature of your tinnitus, proper evaluation and specialized treatment is necessary. Although there isn’t a single cure for tinnitus, we are experienced at providing individual solutions on a case-by-case basis.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it pronounced “TIN-ut-tis” or “tin-EYE-tis”?
Dictionaries disagree, language experts disagree, and medical experts disagree, with passionate, well-reasoned defenses on all sides. How is anyone supposed to know the right answer? At our practice, you can pronounce “tinnitus” however you’d like. Our concern is helping you get relief from your tinnitus.
Are there medications for tinnitus?
Almost all of the “surefire” remedies for tinnitus found on the internet are based on junk science, case studies, or no real evidence at all. Following the home recommendations above, or even investigating the medical ones, is your best course of action.
Can tinnitus be cured?
Current research by neurologists suggests that altering certain areas of the brain that respond to sound — or a lack thereof — may provide relief. Experiments to regrow broken hair cells have also been performed. Regrowth of hair cells means that hearing is restored, which prevents the brain from attempting to fill the void left by a lack of hair cells, ultimately ending tinnitus. Both theories are likely years away from clinical trials, which means a greater period of time until any possible cure hits the market. Curing tinnitus may be possible, but likely not in the near future.
Can tinnitus be directly measured?
Rarely. There is a form of tinnitus referred to as “objective tinnitus” that your doctor can hear. This is typically the result of a blood vessel problem, an inner-ear bone condition, or muscle contractions.
Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?
No. Tinnitus is a symptom of any number of conditions, including hearing loss.
Why is tinnitus worse at night?
In our daily lives, sounds around us typically mask tinnitus to some degree. At night, when things are quiet, there’s less noise and fewer mental distractions. If your tinnitus is stress related, it’s also possible that the cumulative stress of your day has made your symptoms worse.

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