The symptoms of tinnitus include a noise in the ears, such as ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, or whistling; the noise may be intermittent or continuous.
Most of the time, only the person who has tinnitus can hear it (subjective tinnitus). However, there are some types that the doctor can hear if a stethoscope is put in the ear (objective tinnitus).
Tinnitus is not a disease. It's a problem in your hearing system. It's usually not a sign of anything serious, though you should see your doctor to get it checked out.
What Your Doctor Needs to Know About Tinnitus
How tinnitus affects your life is important for diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor may ask:
What are your symptoms?
Do the symptoms make it hard to concentrate, sleep, or work?
Has tinnitus caused relationship problems or made it hard to do daily tasks?
Loud noises and aging are common causes of tinnitus. A health problem, such as thyroid imbalance or high blood pressure, can also cause it. So can earwax, if it blocks the ear canal. Sometimes there is no clear cause.
When you meet with your doctor, be ready to answer questions like these:
Have you had any long-term exposure to loud noises, including at work?
Have you been exposed to an extremely loud noise, such as an explosion?
What prescription drugs do you take?
What over-the-counter drugs, supplements, or natural remedies do you take, if any?
Have you ever had any head or neck injuries?
Certain things can trigger bouts of tinnitus, or worsen it. Your doctor may ask:
Do you drink alcohol or caffeine?
Do you smoke cigarettes?
Are you under a lot of stress?
That information can help your doctor determine what treatment may help.
Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor About Tinnitus
Learning about tinnitus can help you manage it. Ask your doctor these questions so you better understand your condition.
What is tinnitus?
What causes it?
Can you tell what's causing my tinnitus?
Will it go away on its own?
Can other people hear the noise in my ears?
Will tinnitus damage my hearing?
Does having tinnitus mean I have hearing loss?
Tinnitus can be treated. The treatment depends on what's causing it and how severe it is. You may want to ask your doctor these questions to learn about your options:
What are the treatments for tinnitus?
Are there any risks or side effects from the treatment?