Ears Ringing or Buzzing? All About Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

What is this ringing in my ears? Carl had been hearing the sound for weeks. It got even louder when he turned the TV off. 

His wife, Sonja, insisted she couldn’t hear it. She suggested some home remedies that her mother used to cope with her own ears buzzing.

But, I’m very glad Carl decided not to ignore his ear ringing. Instead, he and Sonja came to see me. At the time, neither of them knew about the connection between hearing loss and ringing ears or how “just coping” might put him at risk.

Hearing loss and ringing ears

Carl was suffering from a common ear complaint known as tinnitus. Around 30 million people in the U.S. experience it.

Tinnitus isn’t a condition itself. Instead, tinnitus is a symptom of several possible conditions.

That ear ringing Carl could hear when his wife couldn’t was actually an early warning sign of hearing loss. 

Is this ringing in my ears tinnitus?

Tinnitus isn’t just a ringing sound. Some people hear other sounds like:

  • Whooshing
  • Humming
  • Thumping
  • Buzzing

It’s not just your imagination. It has a physical cause.

The inner ear is filled with thousands of tiny hairs. Each little hair dances in response to sound waves. The way they move tells the brain what you hear.

But these little hairs bend, break, or die altogether.

And as I tell my patients, these aren’t like most hairs on the body. These hairs don’t heal or grow back. The more damaged they become, the worse it will get. Once the little hairs die, permanent hearing loss ensues.

What’s causing my tinnitus and hearing loss?

Have you ever walked out of a concert, gun range, or job site with dampened or foggy hearing or ear ringing? Your body is warning you about damaging sound. This damage may be temporary, but it will become permanent if you ignore the red flags.

Loud noises aren’t the only causes of tinnitus and hearing loss. It could also be:

  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Exposure to ototoxic (harmful to the ear) chemicals at work or home
  • Certain over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers
  • Opioids
  • Some chemo and other drugs
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor blood flow
  • Anxiety/depression

One of my jobs as an audiologist is to help you figure out what’s causing your tinnitus and to slow further damage. 

How can I cope with this ear buzzing?

There is no cure for tinnitus, and home remedies will not fix the problem. Some may even be dangerous.

I worked with Carl to uncover why he had ringing in his ears. We found that it was likely a combination of age-related hearing loss and his high blood pressure. I worked with him and his family doctor to reduce his chances of developing profound hearing loss and also recommended a particular hearing aid that cancels out the sound, which he’s happily wearing now.

If you’re experiencing ear ringing or ear buzzing, please don’t wait for it to become hearing loss. Contact my office to schedule a tinnitus consultation.