Do I Have Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is often called "ringing in the ears." But it could be any kind of sound -- clicking, roaring, whooshing, or hissing -- that doesn't go away.

It isn't a disease. It means you may have problems with your ear and the parts of your brain that process sound. It could also be due to another health problem.

How do you know if you have it? Your doctor will make the final call, but you can ask yourself these questions.

Do you hear noises that people around you don't hear?

When you have tinnitus, you're the only one that notices the ringing, buzzing, or other noise. Other people don't.

Do you take medication?

More than 200 drugs can cause tinnitus, especially when you start or stop taking them. These include pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen, as well as certain antibiotics, diuretics, aspirin, and chemotherapy medicines.

The form that tinnitus takes can vary depending on the drug and its dose. Don't stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor first.

Are you around loud sounds?

Lots of blaring noises where you live or work can cause hearing loss that triggers tinnitus. Those sounds could be anything from roaring machines and lawn equipment to concerts and sporting events.

Tinnitus can build up over the years or stem from a single loud event, like an engine backfire.

Stay away from loud noises if you can. If you can't, wear ear protection. And turn that music down.

Do you have a cold or ear infection?

Congestion, along with ear and sinus infections, can cause pressure to build up in your inner ear. The same thing can happen if you have too much ear wax. That pressure can cause tinnitus.

Treating the cause should ease your symptoms. But long-term blockage sometimes leads to having the hearing condition permanently.

Do you get migraines?

These headaches come with throbbing pain, nausea, and light sensitivity. But they also can have ear-related symptoms like fullness, muffled hearing, and tinnitus.

Have you ever had a serious head or neck injury?

Either can cause problems with your nerves, blood flow, and muscles. That can lead to tinnitus, which often comes with headaches and memory issues when it's linked to head or neck trauma.

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Do you have jaw problems?

Sometimes tinnitus is caused by temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a group of conditions that affect jaw movement. Damage to any of the muscles, ligaments, or cartilage in that area can lead to the hearing problem. Easing TMJ symptoms should help.

Do you have high blood pressure?

That makes you more likely to have tinnitus. Narrowing of the arteries (your doctor may call it atherosclerosis) is another cause. Treating the condition should ease your symptoms.

Do you drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol?

Cut back if you’re a coffee fiend or if you can’t go without a daily cocktail. That might make a difference in what you hear.

Are you under a lot of stress?

Tension, anxiety, and depression can trigger tinnitus. Try relaxation therapy, hypnosis, yoga, or whatever works for you. Whether it helps a case of tinnitus or not, it's good for your overall health.

Do you have another medical condition?

Tinnitus has been linked to diabetes, fibromyalgia, allergies, low vitamin levels, hormonal changes, and autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s also tied to Ménière's disease, a condition that causes hearing loss and vertigo, a spinning sensation.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on January 24, 2018
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