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Ringing in the Ears Symptoms

Have you ever heard that ringing in the ears means someone is talking about you? While this old wives' tale is fun to think about (depending on who you think is talking about you), there's a more likely explanation for the ringing in your ears.

If you're experiencing ringing in the ears, the following symptoms could be present:

  • Unexplained noise in the ears, including ringing, buzzing, whistling, or hissing
  • Noise that is continuous or intermittent
  • Hearing sounds that no one else does

Ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus, can begin in any of the four sections of the hearing system. Whether yours is located in the outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, or brain, knowing the cause is the first step.

There are several types of tinnitus, all which produce different ringing in the ears symptoms and noises that include:

  • Subjective tinnitus: If you can hear a sound no one else can. It is the most common.
  • Pulsatile tinnitus: Also, common, pulsatile tinnitus produces a ringing or buzzing sound in most cases. It can also produce a clicking sound that comes and goes with your heartbeat.
  • Objective tinnitus: This is the rarest type of tinnitus. If you visit your doctor with this type, they may be able to hear the sounds you are when using a stethoscope.

Ringing in the Ears Causes Overview

  • Ringing in the ears isn't a disease but rather a symptom of other conditions. Therefore, it's important to monitor all cases of tinnitus to make sure it's not a symptom of something serious. Look at some of the most common causes of tinnitus to see if there's an obvious explanation for yours.

Lifestyle causes of ringing in the ears:

  • Age-related hearing loss: If grandpa can't hear you, blame it on age-related hearing loss. While this is normal with age, it does make tinnitus more common.
  • Loud noise: Concerts or work environments could be the culprit of your tinnitus. If the condition doesn't improve after several days, see your doctor.

Medications:

  • Antibiotics: Certain antibiotics can cause temporary tinnitus.
  • Aspirin and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs): Especially when taken in high doses.
  • Antimalarial drugs: Includes quinine and chloroquine.

Diseases that cause ringing in the ears:

  • Meniere's disease: Meniere's disease is caused by abnormal inner ear fluid pressure. Tinnitus can be an early sign of the disorder.

10 Potential Ringing in the Ears Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Temporomandibular Joint (Tmj) Dysfunction Disorder

    The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located in front of the ear, and it connects the jaw to the side of the head. Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a painful condition which can be caused by excess tension in jaw mucles, faulty alignment between upper and lower teeth, arthritis in the joint, or injury of the jaw or face.

    Outcome is highly case-dependent.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw, history of headaches, jaw pain, pain in the back of the neck
    Symptoms that always occur with temporomandibular joint (tmj) dysfunction disorder:
    pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Myofascial Pain Syndrome

    Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic musculoskeletal syndrome caused by trigger points within muscle. Pressure on these points causes pain in the area around the point as well as in other body parts, a phenomenon known as referred pain.

    Resolution of pain is dependent on type of treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain in the back of the neck, tender muscle knot, general numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with myofascial pain syndrome:
    tender muscle knot
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Non - Urgent Tinnitus Needing Hearing Tests

    Tinnitus is the experience of having "ear noises" that is often described as as a whistling sound. It's very common, especially as you get older. Depending on the severity and type of tinnitus, you need different types of investigation.

    Tinnitus can come and go but is also permanent in some individuals

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    ringing in the ears, ear pain
    Symptoms that always occur with non-urgent tinnitus needing hearing tests:
    ringing in the ears
    Symptoms that never occur with non-urgent tinnitus needing hearing tests:
    heartbeat sound in the ear, ear discharge, vertigo (extreme dizziness), face weakness, ear pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Chronic Earwax Blockage

    Earwax production is a normal process, as the body makes wax to protect the ear from infection. Sometimes ear wax can build up and cover the eardrum which is a thin layer of skin that stretches across the end of the ear canal and picks up sound from outside.

    With treatment, the condition will resolve.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, dry cough, ear canal pain, ringing in the ears, ear fullness/pressure
    Symptoms that always occur with chronic earwax blockage:
    ear canal pain
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic earwax blockage:
    swollen ear, fever
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  5. 5.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  6. 6.Traumatic Brain Injury

    Traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when a bump, blow, jolt, or other head injury causes damage to the brain.

    Varies depending on severity

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    new headache, irritability, clear runny nose, vision changes, general numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with traumatic brain injury:
    head injury
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  7. 7.Possible Meniere's Disease

    Meniere's disease is a disorder of the inner ear. It can cause severe dizziness, a roaring sound in the ears called tinnitus, hearing loss that comes and goes and the feeling of ear pressure or pain. Meniere's commonly develops between the ages of 20 and 60, and most often starts in only one ear.

    Life-long condition, attacks may happen 6-11 times per year on average.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, episodic dizziness, ringing in the ears, vertigo (extreme dizziness), ear fullness/pressure
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Meniere's Disease

    Meniere's disease is a disorder of the inner ear. It can cause severe dizziness, a roaring sound in the ears called tinnitus, hearing loss that comes and goes and the feeling of ear pressure or pain. Meniere's commonly develops between the ages of 20 and 40, and most often starts in only one ear.

    Life-long condition, attacks may happen 6-11 times per year on average.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, ringing in the ears, vertigo (extreme dizziness), ear fullness/pressure, brief fainting episode
    Symptoms that always occur with meniere's disease:
    dizziness: at least 2 episodes
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Paget Disease of the Bone

    Paget's disease of the bone is a disorder in which the bone recycling process goes astray. It mostly affects people older than 55 years old. While many people with the disease have no symptoms, some suffer from bone pain, abnormal shapes of bone and weaker bones that can break more easily.

    Treatment depends on the severity of disease, however, this is a lifelong condition and treatment may become necessary as the disease progresses.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    new headache, pelvis pain, back pain, spontaneous bone pain, moderate hip pain
    Symptoms that always occur with paget disease of the bone:
    spontaneous bone pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Earwax Blockage

    Ear wax production is a normal process, as the body makes wax to protect the ear from infection. Sometimes ear wax can build up and cover the eardrum, which is a thin layer of skin that stretches across the end of the ear canal and picks up sound from outside. Ear wax buildup has nothing to do with poor hygiene, and it is not possible to prevent a build-up by washing.

    Condition likely will go away on its own after 5 days without treatment. However, with pain, dizziness, or feelings of fullness, the earwax should be removed.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, dry cough, ear canal pain, ear fullness/pressure, ringing in the ears
    Symptoms that never occur with earwax blockage:
    swollen ear, fever
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

Ringing in the Ears Treatments and Relief

In most cases, ringing in the ears isn't a cause for concern and will resolve with time.

But there are times when visiting a doctor as soon as possible is recommended, which include:

  • Ringing in the ears that comes on suddenly and without an obvious cause
  • Ringing or buzzing accompanied by total hearing loss or dizziness

Make an appointment with your doctor at your earliest convenience if tinnitus is persistent or interfering with your quality of life.

Luckily, there are both preventative measures and treatments to try when dealing with tinnitus.

Preventative ringing in the ears measures include:

  • Wear ear protection when around loud noises
  • Keep up on routine ear screenings
  • If you smoke, quit
  • Eat healthy and exercise to improve cardiovascular health

Ready to stop the ringing?

Try these treatments at home to help stop the ringing in your ears.

  • Acupuncture: Some claim relief from tinnitus through acupuncture.
  • Gingko biloba: Gingko biloba has been suggested but controlled trials have yet to demonstrate favorable results
  • White noise: If you just want to wait out your tinnitus but find the noise irritating, try using a white noise machine to lessen the intensity of the ringing or buzzing.

The next time you hear ringing in your ears monitor the symptoms and try to determine a cause. If you have concerns about the seriousness of your tinnitus, see your doctor. Otherwise, wait for the symptoms to resolve themselves.

FAQs About Ringing in the Ears

Here are some frequently asked questions about ringing in the ears.

Can earplugs cause ringing in the ears?

Proper earplug use does not cause ringing in the ears, or "tinnitus." However, there are two etiologies of the ringing in one's ears that is associated with ear plugs. The first is an infection or impaction of the ear way. An infection or impaction of wax can cause pain, and in some cases, ringing or stimulation of the ear. The second is that when a room is silent and an individual's ears are accustomed to sound, the brain may create sounds to fill the sensory void.

Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety?

Recent medical literature indicates that while there is an association between anxiety disorders (such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or agoraphobia, there is no evidence that anxiety disorders cause tinnitus or ringing in the ears. At the same time, almost 1/2 of persons with anxiety disorders have some degree of tinnitus.

Does earwax buildup lead to ringing in the ears?

Yes, earwax buildup can cause tinnitus if the earwax buildup is large enough and also touches the eardrum, as it can stimulate the eardrum causing ear ringing when no apparent source of sound is present. This occurs because the earwax may place pressure on the eardrum which is interpreted as sound or changes the way that the eardrum vibrates.

Why does ringing in the ears sound like?

Ringing in the ears may take many forms. It is often a background noise, however, that can be loud enough to overshadow conversations or to deafen the hearer to other sounds. It may be buzzing, hissing, ringing, or grinding in quality, and it can be constant or occur only occasionally. It may also be pulsatile or non-pulsatile. The former describes a problem related to heart beats, while the latter describes a problem within the inner ear.

Why do my ears ring when I'm dizzy?

A common disease called Meniere's disease affects the inner ear and can cause severe dizziness, vomiting, and unsteadiness on the feet as well as gradual permanent hearing loss. It often only affects one ear. Dizziness frequently occurs suddenly and is followed by muffled hearing. Dizziness in which an individual cannot walk and falls is often referred to as a "drop attack." Persistent dizziness should be quickly evalutated to exclude more serious problems like a stroke or brain mass.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Ringing in the Ears

  • Q.Have you been experiencing dizziness?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our ringing in the ears symptom checker to find out more.

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Ringing in the Ears Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced ringing in the ears have also experienced:

    • 7% Headache
    • 4% Ear Fullness / Pressure
    • 4% Dizziness
  • People who have experienced ringing in the ears were most often matched with:

    • 17% Temporomandibular Joint (Tmj) Dysfunction Disorder
    • 16% Non - Urgent Tinnitus Needing Hearing Tests
    • 3% Myofascial Pain Syndrome
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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