No one really knows why some people are bothered with a ringing or buzzing in the ears. It can be a minor inconvenience or a major problem depending on the severity of the noise. It is not technically a disease, but is considered an annoying symptom that is difficult to relieve. It can also be severely disabling when the sounds are excessive and loud.

Who Gets Tinnitus?

Who Gets Tinnitus

Tinnitus tends to appear as people age. It usually occurs in people aged 40-70. It rarely ever occurs in children. It can happen to anyone, male or female, but it is believed to be slightly more common in men. It is almost twice as common in Caucasians as in African-Americans according to a study done by the The American Tinnitus Association states that 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Scientists and doctors cannot easily point to one cause for tinnitus. It is strongly linked to getting older and some theories connect the occurrence to the aging of the inner ear. The most common theory is that it is caused by excessive noise. Some medications can cause the symptom as well as a build-up of ear wax.

How is it Treated?

Doctors have no specific treatment for tinnitus. In some cases, such as excessive aspirin intake, the patient can reduce or change medications to relieve the ringing in the ears. As with many such undefined problems, it is wise to maintain a food diary to measure whether certain foods make the problem worse. Caffeine and aspirin have both been linked to an increase in tinnitus. Since the sound is not generally a problem when in a loud environment, some patients will opt to have a white noise or sound machine to mask the sounds in their ears. As with most currently incurable conditions, there are many alternative therapies that have been suggested. At this point, no herbal remedies have been clearly shown to fix the problem. Herbal remedies can be dangerous and there is rarely clear well documented evidence to show an effect.

What Steps Should a Person Take if they have this condition?

Keep a diary of your food and medication and the onset and severity of your symptoms. Talk to your doctor about possible treatment options. Ask for a referral to an audiologist or an eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist so that there will be a complete workup on the condition.

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, can be a very bothersome symptom, but there is hope of a future cure. In December of 2009, there was a report of a study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine where a small study using “notched” music therapy significantly reduced the noise generated by tinnitus. Notched music therapy is the idea that a patient would be exposed to music that did not include the frequency of their tinnitus; it is a form of behavioral therapy that has shown some success.