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Tinnitus can be described as a variety of sounds such as ringing, hissing, roaring, pulsing, whooshing, chirping, whistling, or clicking. Tinnitus can happen in one or both ears.
Tinnitus is common. Many of us have had ringing or other sounds in our ears at some time. For some people, tinnitus can be constant and bothersome.
You can look at this Tinnitus Infographic [PDF] for more information.
We do not always know the exact cause of tinnitus. One thing we do know is that you are not imagining it.
Factors that might cause or be associated with tinnitus include the following:
You may find that your tinnitus is more noticeable or annoying at night. This happens because it is quiet, and you have fewer distractions. Feeling tired and stressed may also increase your tinnitus.
If you have tinnitus, your doctor can check for some of the medical issues that may cause tinnitus.
You should also have your hearing tested by an audiologist. Some types of hearing loss and hearing problems can cause tinnitus. A hearing test by an audiologist can help you learn about potential causes and treatment options.
The audiologist may ask you these questions about your tinnitus:
The audiologist may also do some tests to learn about the pitch and loudness of your tinnitus. Learning about tinnitus can be a relief. You can start to take control of it by changing things that may make it worse.
One way to treat tinnitus is to address the cause. For example, you may be able to treat the illness or disease resulting in your tinnitus. However, the cause is often unknown. You can learn ways to manage your tinnitus, even if it will not go away.
A hearing aid can be helpful for tinnitus in some cases. An audiologist can help you find and use the best hearing aid for you.
You might find it helpful to use a device called a tinnitus masker. They look like hearing aids. They make a sound that masks, or covers up, the tinnitus. The masking distracts you from the tinnitus sounds in your ears. You may be able to use a hearing aid that has a built-in tinnitus masker.
Sound machines can be useful at night or during quiet times. Or you can find apps on your phone that make sounds, like the ocean or rainfall. Fish tanks, fans, quiet music, and indoor waterfalls can help, as well.
Here are some other tools that are sometimes used to manage tinnitus:
You may work with an audiologist; an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT); a psychologist; or another specialist. They can help you find the treatment that works best for you.
It may help you to talk to others who have tinnitus. You may learn other ways to manage tinnitus and the stress it causes. Self-help groups exist in many communities and may also provide online support. They can give you a sense of hope and control over tinnitus.
Your audiologist can connect you with a self-help group in your area. For help finding a group near you, visit the American Tinnitus Association (ATA).