Many people experience an occasional ringing (or roaring, hissing,
buzzing, or tinkling) in their ears. The sound usually lasts only a few
minutes. Ringing in the ears that does not get better or go away is called
tinnitus. You may hear a sound, such as a ringing or
roaring, that does not come from your surroundings (nobody else can hear it).
The sound may keep time with your heartbeat, it may keep pace with your
breathing, it may be constant, or it may come and go. Tinnitus is most common
in people older than age 40. Men have problems with tinnitus more often than
There are two main types of tinnitus.
The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss that occurs
with aging (presbycusis), but it can also be caused by living or
working around loud noises (acoustic trauma). Tinnitus can occur
with all types of hearing loss and may be a symptom of almost any ear disorder.
Other possible causes of tinnitus include:
Most tinnitus that comes and goes does not require medical
treatment. You may need to see your doctor if tinnitus occurs with other
symptoms, does not get better or go away, or is in only one ear. There may not
be a cure for tinnitus, but your doctor can help you learn how to live with the
problem and make sure a more serious problem is not causing your
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause
ringing in the ears (tinnitus). A few examples are:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Vertigo is the feeling that you or
your surroundings are moving when there is no actual movement. It may feel like
spinning, whirling, or tilting. Vertigo may make you sick to your stomach, and
you may have trouble standing, walking, or keeping your balance.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
The following tips may help you
reduce symptoms of tinnitus.
While waiting to see whether tinnitus goes away, or if your
doctor has advised you that your tinnitus will be present for a long time, try
these methods to cope with the constant noise:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
You may be able to prevent ringing in the
ears if you:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
This organization provides education and a network of
services through clinics and self-help groups for patients with tinnitus. It
also publishes a quarterly newsletter.
January 11, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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