ENT health

Understanding the Basics of Tinnitus

Written by
Dr. Vasantha K S
and medically reviewed by Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published on Apr 03, 2018 and last reviewed on Jun 10, 2019   -  2 min read



Tinnitus or ringing in the ears is a common symptom seen due to various reasons. This article talks in detail about tinnitus and when you need to consult a doctor for it.

Understanding the Basics of Tinnitus

Tinnitus is described as a sensation of ringing that is perceived in the absence of an external sound. It is not a disease per se, but the symptom of an underlying condition. It can be so disturbing that the person is unable to carry on with his routine work and feels depressed and agitated.


The most common description is that of a sensation of ringing in the ears. But, it may also include other sensations such as the following.

  • Buzzing.
  • Whooshing.
  • Clicking.
  • Hissing.

- The sensation may be present continuously or on and off.

- The noise may be high pitched or dull.

- It may be perceived on one side or both.

Tinnitus Types

There are two types of tinnitus.

  1. Subjective tinnitus - when you are the only one perceiving it. This is the more common type.
  2. Objective tinnitus - rarely, a serious condition may be the cause of tinnitus, and this can be perceived by the examining doctor as well.


  1. Exposure to sudden loud noise.
  2. Prolonged exposure to sound.
  3. Ear infection.
  4. Earwax buildup irritating the eardrum.
  5. Certain medications.
  6. Meniere's disease.
  7. TMJ disorder.
  8. Brain tumor.

Risk Factors

  • Having a job that exposes one to loud noise all the time.
  • Listening to music on earphones at high volume.
  • Age-related hearing problems.
  • Male gender.
  • Smoking.
  • Conditions that affect blood flow in the arteries.


This refers to the accompanying symptoms that the person is likely to experience.

  • Weakness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Insomnia.
  • Difficulty focussing on tasks.
  • Forgetfulness.


  1. Use earmuffs to protect your ears from loud sounds at work.
  2. Avoid continuous use of earphones and headphones at high volume.
  3. Abstain from putting earbuds, keys and other objects in your ear.
  4. Have a healthy diet, exercise regularly and keep your heart healthy.


  • Thorough ear examination.
  • Hearing tests to detect if tinnitus is subjective or objective.
  • CT or MRI may help detect the underlying cause in some cases.


It depends on the underlying cause of tinnitus. If the cause is unknown, they are managed by the following treatments.

  1. Tinnitus maskers: it is a device that emits white noise to offer a distraction from the uncomfortable ringing.
  2. Tinnitus retraining: it is a method to retrain the brain so that it learns to ignore the sound.
  3. Counseling: to learn about tinnitus and how to cope with it.
  4. Cognitive behavior therapy: similar to retraining, this therapy is given to adapt to the noise so it does not interfere anymore.

Home Remedies

  • Avoid exposure to loud noise until you get better.
  • Many report a temporary relief from listening to a white noise such as the sound of the fan running or static from radio or television.
  • Relaxation may help as this condition is worsened by stress.
  • Staying away from alcohol and caffeine prevent it from getting aggravated.

When to See a Doctor?

It is recommended to consult a healthcare provider if:

- You were exposed to a loud noise such as a gunshot.

- You developed a persistent ear block after a cold.

- There is associated vertigo.

For more information consult a tinnitus specialist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/audiologist/tinnitus

Last reviewed at:
10 Jun 2019  -  2 min read




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