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Q. I have tinnitus, small bursts of light and burning at the back of throat. Are these signs of brain tumor?

Answered by
Dr. Upendra K Shah
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vinodhini. J
This is a premium question & answer published on May 01, 2020 and last reviewed on: May 15, 2020

Hello doctor,

I am a 30-year-old healthy woman. I am diagnosed with anxiety disorder 10 years ago. For the past year, I have been experiencing crippling health anxiety. I have experienced a number of frightening symptoms, including brain zaps, weakness in legs, body twitching, dizziness, etc. Last year, I had a CT scan, and MRI of the head and neck. I consulted with a family doctor and neurologist, terrified of MS. All scans came back clear. My doctor said this was all a result of my anxiety and also said he thought I was suffering from GERD or acid reflux.

I felt better for some time but for the past two weeks, I started experiencing very strange symptoms that I have never before felt in my life. I get on and off tinnitus in my right ear, seeing small bursts of light once or twice a day, and feeling of spice/burning in the back of my tongue while eating bland nonspicy food. I have called my optometrist who did a full workup less than a year ago. I have 20/20 vision and no eye conditions. I explained the small bursts of light and he was not too worried and simply told me to keep track and let him know if they are increasing. So far they are not. But these small bursts of light coupled with the tinnitus and also the tongue burning sensation has absolutely terrified me.

I am terrified I have a tumor or brain cancer. This fear is crippling me and I can hardly think straight. Should I be concerned? I am on the verge of running to the ER every night and begging for a CT scan. Please help.



Welcome to

So the problem here is right ear tinnitus. Regarding this I need to know is there hearing difficulty in the right ear? What type of tinnitus, swishing, or continuous? How long it lasts? Is there any vertigo associated with tinnitus? Is there any discharge or fullness of the right ear?

Regarding bursts of light, Which eye? Single eye or both eyes? At the same time of tinnitus or at a different time? Are flashes colored or black or white?

Is burning on the back of tongue one-sided or both sided? Is there any redness on the tongue? Is there hoarseness of voice or throat pain? Please answer all these questions.

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Thank you doctor,

To respond to your questions:

Regarding tinnitus, no, there is no hearing difficulty. There are two types of sounds I hear, one is like a static, white noise sound that oscillates up and down in volume. The second is just a flat tone. Not very loud, still allows me to hear everything around me. It comes and goes throughout the day but only typically lasts for a couple of minutes at a time. It is not continuous. No vertigo. No discharge or feeling of fullness.

Bursts of light, it is hard to tell which eye because it always seems to appear in different places and it only lasts for a second. Again, not sure if it is in single or both eyes. The spark lasts only for a second and typically in my periphery. Flashes do not seem to occur at the same time as tinnitus. Flashes appear to be bright white.

Burning in the back of the tongue feels as if it is a sensation spread across the back half of my tongue (near the throat). I do not see any obvious redness. Yes, I have had a bit of sore throat on and off with no apparent cause. Most typically in the evening and always resolves itself by morning.



Welcome back to

Actually all three symptoms are different and I cannot club all these together to explain the single condition as a cause.

First, regarding the tinnitus and burning on the back of the tongue, it seems that there may be local causes such as tonsillitis or throat infection which can explain these both symptoms or there may be throat infection or allergic condition. And tinnitus may be due to different reason, the commonest cause of tinnitus is wax in the ear, so an ENT check up is required, and I do not think that these are neurological in origin.

Regarding bursts of light, this was since one year and your eye check up was clean, moreover, they are not increasing in frequency, so I do not think it is a matter of concern. Least possibility is an occipital seizure for which you can get an EEG (electroencephalography) done to rule out the same, but before that you can again consult an ophthalmologist, not optometrist and get your eye check up done.

Forget about brain tumor because you do not have any symptom suggesting the same, and just one year back you had clean MRI scan further rules out the tumor.

All you need to do is to consult an ENT and Ophthalmologist.

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