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Tinnitus: Ringing In the Ears

Tinnitus: Ringing In the Ears
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ringing in the ears

Tinnitus is the medical term for “ringing in the ears.” This is often described as a buzzing or whirling sound in the ears that is either constant or intermittent. The sound may be very faint or loud enough to interfere with quality of life. Tinnitus is a very common condition, affecting around 50 million people around the world.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus typically occurs as the result of an underlying condition or lifestyle factors including, but not limited to:

  • Frequent exposure to loud noises
  • Chiari Malformation
  • Inner ear trauma
  • Ear infection
  • Benign tumors
  • Ear wax buildup
  • Aging
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Otosclerosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Circulatory issues
  • Anemia
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Diabetes
  • Injury to the head or neck
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Allergies
  • Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome

Types of Tinnitus

Subjective Tinnitus

This is the most common type of tinnitus and refers to a ringing in the ears that can only be heard by the individual experiencing it.

Objective Tinnitus

This is a rare type of tinnitus in which the ringing in the ears becomes so loud that others can actually hear it when near the individual experiencing it.

Tinnitus Symptoms

  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears (intermittent or constant)
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness


Diagnosing Tinnitus

A primary care physician can diagnose tinnitus with a thorough physical examination and assessment of medical history. They may refer you to an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) to rule out conditions of the ear that can lead to tinnitus. Diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI or CT scan of the ear canal can rule out certain structural causes. You may also be referred to a neurologist to check for certain neurological causes like Chiari Malformation.

Treating Tinnitus

Since tinnitus is not a dangerous medical concern but rather an annoyance, many people never seek treatment for it. If it does become bothersome to the point that it affects quality of life, treating the underlying cause may resolve the ringing in the ears.

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