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Ear noises or buzzing
Alternative namesRinging in the ears; Tinnitus; Noises or buzzing in the ears
DefinitionTinnitus is the medical term for "hearing" noises in your ears when there is no outside source of the sounds. The noises you hear can be soft or loud. They may sound like ringing, blowing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, humming, whistling, or sizzling. You may even think you are hearing air escaping, water running, the inside of a seashell, or musical notes.
Tinnitus is common. Almost everyone experiences a mild form of tinnitus once in awhile that only lasts a few minutes. However, constant or recurring tinnitus is stressful and can interfere with your ability to concentrate or sleep.
It is not known exactly what causes a person to "hear" sounds with no outside source of the noise. However, tinnitus can be a symptom of almost any ear problem, including ear infections , foreign objects or wax in the ear , and injury from loud noises . Alcohol, caffeine, antibiotics, aspirin, or other drugs can also cause ear noises.
Tinnitus may occur with hearing loss. Occasionally, it is a sign of high blood pressure, an allergy, or anemia . Rarely, tinnitus is a sign of a serious problem like a tumor or aneurysm .
Call your health care provider if
The health care provider will perform a physical examination, including a detailed ear examination. The provider ask questions such as:
Usually, there is no known cure for tinnitus. If the underlying cause is determined, then fixing that problem may take away your tinnitus (for example, removal of ear wax). Otherwise, measures to help you lessen or live with the noises are taken.
A tinnitus masker, a device worn like a hearing aid, may help. This works by producing low-level sound directly into the ear to cover or disguise the ear noise so that it is less bothersome. A hearing aid may help lessen ear noise and amplify outside sounds.
Medications such as anti-arrhythmics (usually used for irregular heart rhythms), antidepressants, vasodilators, tranquilizers, and anticonvulsants may help. Antihistamines (e.g., meclizine) are also often effective.
The American Tinnitus Association is a good resource center and support group.
Wear ear protection in any situations where ear damage is possible (such as loud concerts, jackhammers). If you have hearing loss, avoid further damage to your hearing by avoiding excessive noise.
Make sure your blood pressure is normal by maintaining proper body weight, exercising regularly, and seeing your doctor for yearly check ups.
Update Date: 7/24/2003A.D.A.M. editorial. Previously reviewed by Jason Newman, M.D., Department of Otolaryngology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, Washington, DC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (5/6/2003).
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT