The medical term for ringing in the ears is Tinnitus. Although called ringing in the ears, it can also refer to buzzing, chirping, whistling and other sounds in the ears. These sounds may be heard constantly or just every now and then. Some people only hear the ringing in their ears at night when it’s quiet, but others say that they can hear the noises all the time. Sometimes the noise will coincide with the beating of your heart.
Tinnitus is actually quite common, affecting over 50 million American adults every year. But of those 50 million, only about 12 million will actually seek ringing ears treatment. For some, tinnitus is just an annoyance, but for others, it can affect your ability to live a healthy and happy life. These are the patients that will seek medical care.
One of the main causes for tinnitus is loud music or noise. There is a larger incidence of ringing in the ears for those who work where the noise level is high or those who consistently listen to loud music. This is why it is so important to use sound-blocking earphones when working in a high noise level area.
There are a number of conditions that can lead to tinnitus, including ear blockages due to wax build-up, ear infections, a perforated eardrum, natural aging, Meniere’s disease, temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), otosclerosis, injuries to the head or neck and certain drugs. There are over 200 drugs that list ringing in the ears as a side effect. Tinnitus can get worse if you drink alcohol, have too much caffeine, smoke or feel stressed.
If Tinnitus is suspected, the physician will begin with a thorough physical examination. Next, a hearing test will be administered. Although ringing of the ears is sometimes associated with hearing loss, this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, some people report that their hearing is extra sensitive and they need ear plugs to block some of the sound. A CT-scan and/or a MRI may be ordered to rule out a tumor. Although rare, tumors may sometimes lead to ringing in the ears.
The physician needs to find the condition that has led to tinnitus. Once the condition is pinpointed, then a treatment for the ringing ears can be decided. For instance, if the ringing of the ears is due to wax build-up, then the physician can remove the wax and further prescribe better methods for keeping the ears clean. Some conditions that may lead to ringing in the ears will not be able to be treated. For instance, as people age, ringing in the ears becomes more common. Unfortunately, Tinnitus may be a nuisance and sometimes it cannot be cured.
One unconventional ringing ears treatment is to supplement your diet with niacin. Some doctors feel this helps, but there is no scientific proof that it does. Patients should use caution when adding a niacin supplement since it can cause skin flushing.
There are a number of ways to prevent ringing in the ears. As mentioned above, wearing noise-reducing headphones when working in high level noise areas is very important. Also, do not put anything in your ear, especially cotton swabs. These can push the earwax further into the ear and lead to tinnitus. Make an effort to protect your ears from loud noises by carrying ear plugs when you will be somewhere that you know will have unusually loud sounds. For instance, ear plugs can help at music concerts and air shows.
Since there isn’t a lot of ringing of the ear treatments, it is important to take all the measures possible to lessen the severity of tinnitus. There are a number of ways to do this, including avoiding all loud noises and sounds, keeping your blood pressure in check, decreasing your salt intake, reducing anxiety, adding more exercise to your daily routine, avoiding caffeine and nicotine, getting enough rest and avoiding fatigue and trying to keep your mind occupied. You can also play music or leave the TV on to attempt to mask the ringing in your ears. If you are listening to other sounds, you may be less aware of the ringing. Also, check which medications you are taking. If possible avoid all aspirin and aspirin-type products.