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BOD-ities: Should I be worried if my ears are ringing?

Riddle Hospital October 17, 2019 By Jessica M. Bell, AuD

As the saying goes: If your ears are ringing, someone is talking about you.

This adage is an easy way to write off ringing in your ears but the real reason for this ringing is a little more complicated than an errant conversation.

Ringing in the ears is called tinnitus. Tinnitus is very common, affecting an estimated 50 million adults in the United States. While it often presents as ringing in the ears, some people might hear a buzzing, chirping or hissing sound, instead.

Tinnitus can happen to anyone; it’s an especially common symptom among seniors and your risk for it increases if you have age-related hearing loss or an ear or head injury. You might be at an increased risk for tinnitus if you’ve had prolonged exposure to loud environments—think factory workers, musicians or construction site workers.

Whether or not you should seek treatment for tinnitus depends on how often it happens and your perception of how severe it is. Most of us will experience intermittent ringing in our ears at some point, and it typically only lasts for a few seconds or a minute. This is considered tinnitus but, in most cases, is not cause for concern. This intermittent ringing might be a side effect of things like a earwax build-up, caffeine intake or a medication you’re currently taking. If you notice ringing in your ears, ask yourself if any of these could be the reason why.

If you’ve recently had a concussion or head injury, this can also cause ringing in your ears. In the majority of cases, ringing in your ears as a result of issues like these will subside.

If however, this ringing persists or worsens over the course of several weeks, seems to be only be occurring in one ear, or if it is accompanied by dizziness or a complete loss of hearing, you should make an appointment with your health care provider. After a consultation, your provider may refer you to an audiologist or otolaryngologist for evaluation and diagnosis. Depending on the cause of your tinnitus, your care provider will recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

Thanks to advances in hearing treatment and hearing aid technology, tinnitus is an easily treatable condition. The Audiology & Hearing Aid Center at Riddle Hospital can provide treatment and help for patients with tinnitus.

Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.