Signs & Symptoms   |    Causes   |    Treatment   |

Questions to Ask   |    Self-Care/Prevention

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Tinnitus is hearing ringing or other noises in the ears when no outside source makes the sounds. Almost everyone gets “ringing in the ears” at one time or another. This may last a minute or so, but then goes away. When hearing these sounds persists, suspect tinnitus. The noises can range in volume from a ring to a roar.

Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV)

Vertigo is a feeling that you or the room around you is spinning or moving. This is due to a problem with the inner ear, nervous system, heart, or with blood pressure.


The most common cause of vertigo is benign positional vertigo (BPV). With this, the feeling of spinning occurs quickly when you change the position of your head. (You turn over in bed, bend over, etc.).

Signs & Symptoms

•  Ringing, buzzing, hissing, humming, roaring, or whistling noises in the ears. These problems can persist or come and go.

•  Problems sleeping.

•  Emotional distress.

•  Hearing loss.

Tinnitus can be quite disturbing. It can interfere with normal activities.



Exposure to loud noise which damages nerves in the inner ear is the most common cause. This can be from prolonged exposure or from one extreme incident.

The American Tinnitus Association



Other Causes

•  Ear disorders, such as labyrinthitis. This is swelling of canals in the ear that help maintain balance.

•  Persistent allergies.

•  High blood pressure.

•  A reaction to some medications. These include: Aspirin; levodopa (for Parkinson’s disease); quinidine (for irregular heartbeats); propranolol (for high blood pressure, etc.); and quinine (for leg cramps).

•  Ménières disease. With this, dizziness, ringing sounds, and hearing loss occur together. Symptoms come and go.

In some cases, no cause is found.


There is no cure for tinnitus. Treatment includes:

•  A hearing aid that plays a soothing sound to drown out the tinnitus.

•  A tinnitus masker. This is worn behind the ear. It makes a subtle noise to distract the person from tinnitus. The masker does not interfere with hearing and speech.

•  Relaxation therapy.

•  Educational counseling or support groups for tinnitus.

•  Sleeping pills, if needed.

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

•  Wear earplugs or earmuffs when exposed to loud noises. This can prevent noise-induced tinnitus.

•  Treat an ear infection right away.

•  For mild cases of tinnitus, play the radio or a white noise tape. White noise is a low, constant sound.

•  Use biofeedback or other relaxation techniques.

•  Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and aspirin.

•  Talk to your doctor if you use the drugs listed in Causes on this page.

•  If the noises started during or after traveling in an airplane, pinch your nostrils and blow through your nose. When you fly, chew gum or suck on hard candy to prevent ear popping and ringing sounds in the ear. If possible, avoid flying when you have an upper respiratory or ear infection.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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