If your ears are ringing, it is not just another symptom you can brush off. It is actually the result of damage to the ear. The medical term for ringing ears is ‘tinnitus,’ which is caused by the loss of sensory hair cells in the cochlea or the inner ear.
Tinnitus is not uncommon and affects a lot of people – approximately 15-20% of people across the world experience this ailment. But most of them end up dismissing the sounds ringing in their ears as a temporary phase. Tinnitus varies for different people – for some people it might be the typical ringing, while others may experience buzzing, clicking, hissing, whooshing, or even sounds of the ocean waves.
The intensity and frequency of tinnitus differs from person to person, too. It may be loud or soft, constant or occasional. For most, the ringing in the ears is more noticeable at night, when there are no other distracting sounds. While tinnitus is not a life-threatening ailment, it can be a constant disturbance for you. And of course, it is debilitating, too. Let’s understand the symptoms and causes of ear ringing:
The most common symptom in tinnitus is that you will end up hearing sounds no one else can. As mentioned before, the sounds may vary from person to person. Loud or soft ear ringing can interfere with your ability to concentrate on your work.
In rare cases, the ear ringing is often in sync with the heartbeat – this is termed as ‘pulsatile tinnitus.’ Any type of rhythmic pulsing or whooshing sounds come under this category. The rhythmic ear ringing can also be heard by the doctor as he/she examines you for pulsatile tinnitus.
Internal damage to the ear is one of the main causes of tinnitus – bent or broken hair inside the inner ear leaks random electrical impulses to the brain, causing tinnitus. Ear infections or ear canal blockage, too, can build pressure in your ears leading to ear ringing. Trauma due to head or neck injuries often leads to tinnitus in one ear. At times, certain medications can also cause or worsen tinnitus.
If left untreated, tinnitus can lead to stress, fatigue, sleep issues, anxiety, irritability, and productivity issues. Timely detection and treatment of tinnitus would help avoid all of these peripheral ailments.