Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)

Healthcare provider and man having a hearing aid consultation.Tinnitus is the term for a noise in your ear not caused by an outside sound. The noise might be a ringing, clicking, hiss, or roar. It can vary in pitch and may be soft or quite loud. For some people, tinnitus is a minor nuisance. But for others, the noise can make it hard to hear, work, and even sleep. When tinnitus can't be cured, a number of treatments may offer relief.

What causes tinnitus?

Loud noises, hearing loss, and ear wax can cause tinnitus. So can certain medicines. Large amounts of aspirin or caffeine are sometimes to blame. In many cases, the exact cause of tinnitus is unknown.

How is tinnitus treated?

Identifying and removing the cause is the best way to treat tinnitus. For that reason, your healthcare provider may refer you to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor). Your hearing may also be checked by an audiologist (hearing specialist). If you have hearing loss, wearing a hearing aid may help your tinnitus. When the cause can't be found, the tinnitus itself may be treated. Some of the treatments are listed below, and your healthcare provider can tell you more about them:

  • Maskers are small devices that look like hearing aids. They emit a pleasant sound that helps cover up the ringing in your ears. Hearing aids and maskers are sometimes used together.

  • Medicines that treat anxiety and depression may ease tinnitus in some people.

  • Hypnosis or relaxation therapy may help head noise seem less severe.

  • Tinnitus retraining therapy combines counseling and maskers. Both can help take your mind off the tinnitus.

For more information

  • American Speech-Hearing-Language Association 800-638-8255 www.asha.org

  • American Tinnitus Association 800-634-8978 www.ata.org

  • National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders 800-241-1044 www.nidcd.nih.gov