Tinnitus, The Annoying Sound Inside Your Head

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Do you experience a ringing, swishing or buzzing sound inside of your ears? If not, do you know anyone who complains about this problem? I am one person among 36 million people who is affected by this problem. I am happy to report that I am not among the 7 million who are so distracted by the noise that they cannot work or function.

It is important to understand that people who experience tinnitus are not crazy and are not pretending or hallucinating. This is a problem that is still not well understood and appears to have no cure. However, there are ways to either reduce its impact or prevent it from happening.


Objective and Subjective Tinnitus:

There are two types of tinnitus, objective and subjective. Objective tinnitus is caused by noise originating from inside the body. In fact, if someone was in a dark chamber with the absence of inside or outside sound, they would experience tinnitus. Anything that blocks outside noise will make a person aware of their internal body noises, the objective form of tinnitus. However, by far the most common form of tinnitus is subjective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is caused by abnormal activity in the nerve fibers without any actual sound being made. Mostly, this is the type of tinnitus that will be discussed here.

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What Causes Tinnitus?

1. One of the most common causes of tinnitus is damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear.

2. As people age it is common to have a certain amount of hearing nerve impairment. This impairment causes and tinnitus.

3. Exposure to loud noises is a very common cause of tinnitus, and it often damages hearing as well. Unfortunately, many people are unconcerned about the harmful effects of excessively loud noises such as from firearms, high intensity music and July fourth explosions. As we are all well aware, we live in a loud world.

4. Some medications, such as aspirin, can either cause tinnitus or exacerbate the condition. 

5. Some diseases of the inner ear, like Meniere’s syndrome, can cause tinnitus.

6. Tinnitus can in very rare situations be a symptom of such serious problems as an aneurysm or a brain tumor.

7. I have known people whose tinnitus was caused by a sinus infection or other types of sinus diseases. When the infection clears, the tinnitus seems to clear.

8. Putting things in your ears, such as Q tips to clean your ears, can cause damage leading to tinnitus.


The first thing a person should do if they are experiencing these uncomfortable sounds in their ear is to be seen by a Medical Doctor. Obviously, it is important to rule out any serious physical problems that could be the root cause of this condition. However, after any disease process is ruled out then, there are a number of things people can do to get relief from this annoying noise in the ear.

1. Aspirin and other similar products should be used with great care as they can irritate tinnitus.

2. Avoid loud and shocking noises. Listening to music through an IPod or ear phones is all right if the volume is kept low. In fact, it is head phones and Ipods that have probably contributed to this inner ear because loud music blasting into the ears causes damage.

3. It is known that stress and anxiety can worsen the condition. While it is impossible to completely avoid stress and anxiety, it is possible to reduce its effects.

Tinnitus is annoying but is not dangerous. However, I do want to repeat a cautionary note: If you are experiencing these noises please go to the Medical Doctor, especially an Ear Nose and Throat(ENT) doctor. The purpose is to rule out and disease or organic process. However, once those are ruled out and you have been told it is tinnitus, then use some of the relaxation techniques mentioned above.

As the old television commercial said, "do not put anything in your ears…except your elbow." I have read that wax in the ears has an important role that is serves to protect the ears.

Remember, we live in a noisy world made worse by Ipods and ear phones. Turn down the levels of noise and, as they say, "chill out, man!!"

Your comments are welcome

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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