What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the sound of ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, or clicking that occurs inside the head. The sounds may come and go, be continuous, occur in one or both ears, and vary in pitch. Currently, more than 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from some degree of tinnitus. Of these individuals, at least 2 million experience it so severely that it interferes with their daily activities, according to the American Tinnitus Association.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus may result from a variety of causes, including:

  • Damage to the nerve endings in the inner ear

  • Stiffening of bones in the middle ear

  • Advancing age

  • Exposure to loud noises

  • Allergy

  • High or low blood pressure

  • Tumor

  • Diabetes

  • Thyroid problems

  • Head or neck injury

  • Reaction to certain medications

  • Wax buildup

  • Jaw misalignment

Treatment for tinnitus

Specific treatment for tinnitus will be determined by your health care provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Currently, there is no known cure for tinnitus. However, experts suggest trying one of the following to find relief:

  • Hearing aids. These may benefit some people with tinnitus who have hearing loss. Using a hearing aid may help some people with tinnitus by making some sounds louder.

  • Cochlear implants. This option is for those who have tinnitus along with severe hearing loss. 

  • Maskers. These provide help for some individuals by making tinnitus less noticeable. This small electronic device creates sound that may make the ringing or roaring seem softer.

  • Medications. Some medications may ease tinnitus by addressing a problem related to the condition or to improve mood or sleep.

  • Tinnitus retraining therapy. This therapy uses a combination of counseling and maskers. Otolaryngologists and audiologists can help a person learn how to deal with the tinnitus.

  • Counseling. A person with tinnitus can take the opportunity to meet with a counselor or support group.

  • Relaxation. This may provide relief for some people as stress may make tinnitus worse.