ringing in ears

After attending a concert or being exposed to an intensely loud noise like a jackhammer, many people notice a ringing sound in their ears. This ringing in ears is usually short-lived, disappearing soon after the source of the noise is removed. Yet sometimes the ringing can be constant and life altering.

Hearing sound with no outside source, whether it?s buzzing, roaring, hissing, humming, or ringing in ears, is called tinnitus. Between 50 and 60 million Americans have tinnitus. The noise can either come and go, or be persistent. Having a constant ringing in ears can be distracting and annoying. Tinnitus can keep you up at night, and destroy your ability to concentrate.

Sometimes tinnitus stems from damage to hair cells in the inner ear, which can be caused by age, exposure to loud noses, cardiovascular disease, or medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or diuretics. These hair cells normally convert sound waves into electrical signals for the brain to decode. When they are damaged, the brain doesn?t receive the right signals. As the brain tries to ?turn up the volume? to hear the sounds it?s missing, it produces an electrical-type noise.

To diagnose ringing in ears, your doctor or an audiologist will give you a hearing test. Most people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. You will sit in a soundproofed room wearing headphones, while sounds are played into your ear to find out how well you can hear. You might also have imaging tests such as a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to look for a growth or blood vessel issue that might be triggering the problem.

Tinnitus can?t be cured, but you can learn to live with it. Wearing a hearing aid amplifies sounds around you, which masks ringing in the ears. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can make the constant sound less distressing.

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