Many people experience an occasional ringing (or roaring, hissing,
buzzing, or tinkling) in their ears. The sound usually lasts only a few
minutes. Ringing in the ears that does not get better or go away is called
tinnitus. You may hear a sound, such as a ringing or
roaring, that does not come from your surroundings (nobody else can hear it).
The sound may keep time with your heartbeat, it may keep pace with your
breathing, it may be constant, or it may come and go. Tinnitus is most common
in people older than age 40. Men have problems with tinnitus more often than
Pulsatile (like a heartbeat) tinnitus is often caused by sounds created by muscle movements near the
ear, changes in the ear canal, or blood flow (vascular) problems in the face or
neck. You may hear sounds such as your own pulse or the contractions of your
Nonpulsatile tinnitus is caused by
problems in the nerves involved with hearing. You may hear sounds in one or
both ears. Sometimes this type of tinnitus is described as coming from inside
The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss that occurs
with aging (presbycusis), but it can also be caused by living or
working around loud noises (acoustic trauma). Tinnitus can occur
with all types of hearing loss and may be a symptom of almost any ear disorder.
Other possible causes of tinnitus include:
Most tinnitus that comes and goes does not require medical
treatment. You may need to see your doctor if tinnitus occurs with other
symptoms, does not get better or go away, or is in only one ear. There may not
be a cure for tinnitus, but your doctor can help you learn how to live with the
problem and make sure a more serious problem is not causing your
regularly. Exercise improves blood flow to the structures of the ear. But
avoid extended periods of exercise, such as bicycle riding, that keep your neck
in a hyperextended position. For more information, see the topic
While waiting to see whether tinnitus goes away, or if your
doctor has advised you that your tinnitus will be present for a long time, try
these methods to cope with the constant noise:
Limit or avoid exposure to the noises you suspect
are causing your tinnitus. If you cannot avoid loud noises, wear protective
earplugs or earmuffs.
Try to ignore the sound by directing your
attention to other things.
Quiet rooms can cause tinnitus to seem more distracting.
Background noise may reduce the amount of noise you hear. Play music or
white noise when you are trying to fall asleep or
anytime you find yourself in a quiet place. Try using a fan, a humidifier, or a
machine that makes soothing sounds such as ocean waves.
ginkgo biloba. Some studies suggest that it may help
relieve tinnitus, but other studies do not show a benefit. Further studies are
needed to determine the best dosage.
Symptoms develop that are related to nerve
damage, such as loss of coordination or numbness or weakness on one side of the
face or one side of the body.
Other symptoms develop, such as
significant hearing loss,
vertigo, loss of balance, nausea or
Tinnitus localizes to one ear.
becomes worse after an ear injury, or tinnitus or hearing loss
does not improve.
for more than a week.
become more severe or more frequent.
You may be able to prevent ringing in the
ears if you:
Limit or avoid exposure to loud noises, such as
music, power tools, gunshots, and industrial machinery.
Wear protective earplugs or earmuffs if you
cannot avoid loud noises. Do not use wadded-up tissue or cotton balls. These do
not protect adequately against loud noises, especially the more dangerous high
frequencies, and they may become lodged in the ear canal.
careful when using stereo headphones. If music is so loud that others can hear
it clearly or you can't hear other sounds around you, the volume is too
Cut back on or stop drinking alcohol and beverages
Do not smoke or use smokeless tobacco
products. Nicotine use may cause tinnitus by reducing blood flow to the
structures of the ear. For more information, see the topic
Exercise may prevent tinnitus because it improves blood flow to the structures
of the ear. For more information, see the topic
Maintain a healthy weight.
Tinnitus occurs more frequently in obese adults. For more information, see the
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.