Tinnitus is the medical term for “ringing ears.” It is actually a common problem, according to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. It affects 1 in every 5 people. Ringing ears however, is not the actual condition. It is a symptom of other problems, especially in the elderly. These problems can be diagnosed as hearing loss in the elderly, ear injury, or a circulatory system disorder. Tinnitus or ringing ears is not life-threatening or considered a serious illness. It can be treated.
If you think you have ringing ears, the symptoms to be aware of are: hearing sounds when no other external source is creating sound–such as hissing, buzzing, clicking, whistling, ringing, or roaring. These bothersome sounds can affect one or both ears. The sounds may be constant or be heard on and off at different times. Doctors have determined that the bothersome ringing ears is due to problems in the outer, middle, or inner ear. It can be caused by trouble with nerves in the brain that interpret nerve signals into sound. There are tiny hairs in our inner ears. If the hairs are broken or bent they will send a broken sound message to our brain, resulting in ringing ears. The cause of ringing ears is sometimes hard to determine. Some further medical research has found that even exposure to loud noise can cause damage to ear nerves and lead to ringing ears. Yes—even iPods or Mp3 players can be a hazard if continually played too loudly. Other conditions have also been found to be possible causes of ringing ears, but on a much smaller probability range–change in ear bone structure, Meniere’s disease, stress and depression, head or neck injuries, blood vessel disorders, high blood pressure, or head and neck tumors.
If a doctor cannot determine any physical condition that is causing a patient’s ringing ears, they will consult any medications that the patient may be taking. Some medications that have been found to be possible triggers for ringing ears are: anti-biotics, cancer treatment medications, diuretics or water pills, asprin (taken in large doses), or malaria treatment medications.
Do not stop taking medications until you speak with your doctor. The doctor will run tests to determine the cause of ringing ears. He will first give a complete hearing exam. Next, a physical exam of the ears will be done. MRI or CT tests (x-rays) may also be needed. Knowing how to describe your symptoms will help the doctor in his diagnosis of your ringing ears–try to be descriptive and concise. Tell your doctor which medications you are taking and list all current health conditions or problems.