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The Beast in Your Ears: Tinnitus


Have you ever been to a loud concert? When you finally made it back to your quiet home, did you suddenly realize there was an annoying ringing sound in your ears? It’s almost like your ears take on a beastly form of their own? That’s Tinnitus. In many cases it fades away after a few hours or days (a temporary form of hearing loss), however for a lot of people, it can become a permanent and serious condition.

Tinnitus: that perforating ringing sound

Tinnitus is a ringing or swishing sound in the ear or head that appears in the absence of any external sounds; only the affected person can “hear it”. The chronic version of Tinnitus affects roughly 35Mn people in the US and one in five people between 55 and 65 claim to have it. Since it usually is a subjective phenomenon, it is difficult to measure using objective tests, like audiometry. Therefore, it is clinically often rated on a simple scale from “slight” to “catastrophic”, based on how it affects a person’s normal daily activities, including sleep.

The pathological causes of Tinnitus are still not entirely understood. When the hair cells in the cochlea become damaged (for instance during exposure to loud sounds), information might be relayed to the brain that an externally audible sound is present when it is not. Some studies attribute Tinnitus to disorders within the auditory nerve, where certain nerve cells tend to continuously be overexcited.

What are far better understood are the common causes for Tinnitus:

  • Exposure to loud sounds, especially repeatedly
  • Infection or disease in the middle ear (3 tiny bones or the ear drum)
  • Impairment of the hair cells due to normal hearing loss that comes with ageing
  • Excessive stress levels that affect/weaken the overall nervous system
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Certain ototoxic medications, like for instance Aspirin
  • Very rarely, Tinnitus can be an indicator of a more serious condition, like a brain aneurysm or nerve tumor

Prevention is the best medicine against Tinnitus

If you feel like you have a continuous form of Tinnitus, contact your doctor for an assessment and further directions. Currently, there is no “silver bullet” cure for Tinnitus, even though various studies have shown some results with drugs, surgery or neural and external sound simulators (often achieved with “white noise” generators).

The best way of addressing Tinnitus is not having to deal with it in the first place. Keep in mind the following preventive measures:

  • Reduce your intake of alcohol and nerve stimulants (e.g. caffeine), as well as other day-to-day otoxic substances like Nicotine.
  • Be mindful of loud everyday noises: from the blow dryer to the lawnmower. If other people around you can hear you listening to music from your iPod, you should probably reduce the volume.
  • When heading to that loud concert, club or performance, treat your ears with earplugs.
  • Take precaution if you have a noisy work environment; use earplugs or earmuffs when  necessary.
  • Pay attention to your nutrition; control your blood pressure and decrease your salt intake. There is a clear correlation between Tinnitus and obesity and its related cardiovascular problems.
  • Reduce your stress and anxiety levels and get an adequate amount of rest.
  • Do not use cotton swabs to clean your ears as you can damage your eadrums and trigger Tinnitus. If you feel that you have excessive ear wax build up, consult your doctor.

Keep your hearing healthy; it will help you tame the Tinnitus beast in the future. To learn more about hearing and hearing loss, see our Guide to Hearing section.

Sources: Audicus Hearing Aids, Medicinenet, Wikipedia, AARP,
Photo by: Adrian Muttitt/Alamy

by Patrick Freuler

4 responses to “The Beast in Your Ears: Tinnitus

  1. You missed one other cause of tinnitus: physical trauma. When I was younger I suffered a blow to my ear. Required a plastic surgeon and 14 stitches to put my ear back together again. The physical blow permanently damaged the hairs in the cochlea and I’ve been living with the ringing ever since.

  2. I recently began hearing operatic singing in my head. Researching “noise in head” I came upon the term tinnitus. It seems to fit the situation, though it refers to sounds, ringing, buzzing etc. and I have not found any reference to sung words. I am in my 70’s and this just started about a month ago. I have been wearing hearing aids for about 20 years and wonder if they are responsible for this intermittent, awful concert.

  3. This might also works for other Tinnitus sufferer out there, I am 38 years old, I suffered from permanent tinnitus for about 10 years, mostly in my right ear… which means I’ve got this constant ringing in my ears, which has also made me somewhat deaf. It’s like this Whee! noise in my head all the time. My T was more steady, this is due to prolonged exposure to the loud volume of concerts. Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I wish I’d thought about it earlier. There were days when I didn’t know whether I would survive, I was so tormented by this symptoms. When I lay down to sleep it bothers me the most, As I lay my head on the pillow, it cancels out all the other noise but the Tinnitus. The GoodNews is that after using William Herbal medicine, Tinnitus is gone, try it also it may work for you. There are real cure and do not be discouraged. Hang in there… Better days will come for you too (email:

  4. How i survived tinnitus.
    I was diagnosed with tinnitus 2005 which was caused by exposure to loud sound because i was a sound engineer. I lacked concentration, peace and sleep for 8 years because of tinnitus and i heard a continuous ringing in my ear as a result of this i could not concentrate, what could be worse than been tormented with ringing high pitched sound for 8 years. It becomes louder at night high pitched. I tried several drugs, therapies and ear fluxes but none worked. My doctor told me i cant be cured. Still in pain a cousin of mine told me about Dr. Joseph who treats tinnitus, i never believed because my doctor said there was no cure. In desperation i contacted him via mail and explained my condition and he came to meet me with his medicine and treated me till i was fully okay. Today i am free and very fine.

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