9 Symptoms of Tinnitus

If you’ve noticed a ringing in your ears lately, then you’re in good company. That sound is technically known as tinnitus, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 50 million adults suffer from it. It can range from mild to severe, and can manifest in a variety of sounds. Some of the most common include ringing, whistling, buzzing, humming, and whooshing. In very rare cases, some suffers have complained of hearing music or even voices. Tinnitus is not considered a medical condition itself, but a symptom of some other underlying cause, such as hearing loss, circulatory issues, or inner ear damage. This means that some groups are more likely to get it — including those who work around loud noises, older people, and those who smoke.

Most cases are mild, showing as a slightly annoying background noise, but some can be severe, impacting work, sleep, and concentration. In the next few sections, we’ll go over some of the most common symptoms and causes of tinnitus.

1. Inner Ear Ringing

Inner ear ringing is by far the most reported symptom. There are actually two types of this — subjective ringing and objective ringing. In subjective tinnitus, only the patient can hear the ringing noises. This is the most frequently occurring version of inner ear ringing. Objective tinnitus is the version of the condition wherein the ringing is audible to a doctor performing an examination. While subjective tinnitus may have many causes, some of which are not known at this time, objective tinnitus is always the result of damage to the blood vessels, bones, or nerve endings of the ear.

Both subjective and objective tinnitus are highly treatable. For subjective tinnitus, lifestyle changes are often suggested, as the condition seems to be worse for those who are overweight, smoke, or consume large amounts of alcohol or caffeine. If the ringing gets worse at night or during quiet times, doctors may suggest playing soft music as a way of decreasing the annoyance. Relaxation has also been found to be very useful in treating ringing, so doctors may recommend a few minutes of meditation or guided relaxation each day.

Objective tinnitus is often addressed using medical methods. Doctors will treat the underlying cause, which then generally removes the issues causing the tinnitus in the first place.