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What is it?

Tinnitus is the medical term for what is often called ringing of the ears.


Many different things can cause ringing of the ears including loud noises, head trauma, medicines (such as aspirin or quinine), infection, tumors, strokes, poor circulation, aging, genetics and certain diseases. Ultimately, all of these lead to damage or compromised function of the auditory nerve through which our brains receive and perceive sound signals.

Signs and Symptoms:

Although "ringing" of the ears is described, many patients with tinnitus describe it as a roar, hiss, buzz, or high-pitched whine. This noise may be constant or come and go. The noise is usually not as noticeable when you are active and is more noticeable when you are quiet or at rest. Consequently, some people with tinnitus have difficulty sleeping. If the noise is loud and constant, it may make it difficult to hear conversation, particularly in a crowded, noisy room. There may or may not be hearing loss along with the tinnitus. Sometimes increased headaches, dizziness, or a feeling of ear fullness/pressure may be associated with tinnitus.

Wellness Recommendations:

Avoid loud noises. Wear ear protection if you work around loud noise. If you smoke, quit. Your tinnitus may improve if you do not smoke.

Medical Care:

Caregivers will ask you questions and then examine you. An audiogram (hearing test) will be done to learn what is causing the tinnitus. Medicine, surgery, or a hearing aid may be needed to treat the tinnitus.

Dietary Measures:

  • Tinnitus symptoms may be decreased if you avoid caffeine and salt in your diet.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.



      Complementary Therapies:

      • For a short time, acupuncture may help tinnitus.
      • Biofeedback may help tinnitus.
      • Hypnosis may help tinnitus.
      • You may find it helpful to talk to a counselor about your tinnitus.
      • Noise generators that can partially mask the tinnitus may be helpful.

      Care Agreement:

      You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss your treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat your tinnitus. You always have the right to refuse treatment


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      2. Carmen R & Svihovec D: Relaxation-biofeedback in the treatment of tinnitus. Am J Otol 1984; 5(5):376-381.

      3. Carrick DG, Davies WM, Fielder CP et al: Low-powered ultrasound in the treatment of tinnitus: a pilot study. Br J Audiol 1986; 20(2):153-155.

      4. Furugard S, Hedin PJ, Eggertz A et al: Acupuncture worth trying in severe tinnitus. Norrlands Universitetssjukhus, Umea. Lakartidningen 1998; 95(17):1922-1928.

      5. Hazell JW, Wood SM, Cooper HR et al: A clinical study of tinnitus maskers. Br J Audiol 1985; 19(2):65-146.

      6. Meyerhoff WL& Mickey BE: Vascular decompression of the cochlear nerve in tinnitus sufferers. Laryngoscope 1988 Jun; 98(6 pt 1):602-604.

      7. Rosenberg SE, Silverstein H, Rowan PT et al: Effect of melatonin on tinnitus. Laryngoscope 1998; 108(3):305-310.

      8. Shemesh Z, Attias J, Ornana M et al: Vitamin B12 deficiency in patients with chronic-tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss. Am J Otolaryngol 1993; 14(2):94-99.

      9. Wilson PH, Henry JL, Andersson G et al: A critical analysis of directive counselling as a component of tinnitus retraining therapy. Br J Audiol 1998; 32(5):273-286.

      Last Updated: 12/4/2015

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