Constant Ringing in the Ears
Continuous or constant ringing in the ears can be a very aggravating symptom for which most people will want to seek treatment. Constant ringing in the ears may be caused by a number of triggers, but is most often related to loud noises, age related hearing loss, or medication side effects or withdrawal.
Although there is no cure for ringing in the ears unless there is an underlying cause that can be treated, it may be possible to reduce the severity of the symptoms using these tinnitus cures. There are prescription medications available for extreme cases, herbal supplements that may help, and auditory methods for coping with constant ringing in the ears.
Causes for Constant Ringing in the Ears
Constant ringing in the ears occurs when the cilia and neurons that handle hearing become damaged and can be a temporary problem or a permanent symptom of an injury. The ear drum can also become damaged and cause constant ringing in the ears.
The ear drum sends external sound waves into the middle ear, where it gets amplified and passes through to the inner ear where the cilia and neurons are located. The cilia are tiny hairs that act like antennas to pick up on noise vibrations. Attached to the base of each hair is a brain cell, called a neuron that sends the frequency (vibration) to the brain for interpretation. The brain’s interpretation of the sound is what we effectively “hear”.
Exposing the ears to sustained loud noises or repeatedly exposing the ears to loud noises over a period of many years can significantly damage the eardrum, cilia, or neurons housed in the inner ear.
As really loud sounds pass through the ear drum, the volume can cause the eardrum to become detached or cause a perforation (similar to a blown speaker in a car). Just like a blown speaker in the car can distort the sounds from the radio, a “blown” eardrum will distort sounds we hear. The ear drum can’t always be repaired, so this can lead to constant ringing in the ears. The cilia and neurons can be subjected to the same type of damage, but may become dislodged instead of perforated.
When the neurons become damaged, it causes them to send signals to the brain when there really is no vibration to be interpreted. Because the brain is functioning normally, the message it receives from the neurons is interpreted as sound. And since each neuron is responsible for a specific frequency, when a specific neuron becomes damaged the same signal is constantly sent to the brain and causes constant ringing.
Age related hearing loss can also cause constant ringing in the ears for the same reason. The constant ringing caused by hearing loss is a result of deteriorating cells in the inner ear. As we age, so do the cells that make up the cilia, eardrum, and neurons responsible for hearing. Although this isn’t caused directly by an external source of damage, once these parts become damaged the result is the same: intermittent or constant ringing in the ears.
Some medication can cause constant ringing in the ears as well as withdrawal from certain medications. Benzodiazepine is an addictive drug that is commonly prescribed to help people with tinnitus, but in some people actually causes this symptom. If a person is prescribed medications such as Ativan, Xanax, Valium or any other type of anti-anxiety medication considered under this umbrella for a purpose other than relief from hearing-related problems, constant ringing in the ears should be reported to a doctor. These medications can also cause severe sensitivity to sounds and vertigo.
Treatment for Constant Ringing in the Ears
Effectively treating the sounds of constant ringing, whether that means hearing beeping tones or whirring or buzzing, comes down to trial and error. For many, a white noise machine helps them to cope with the constant noise. White noise machines emit “neutral” sounds and give the ears something else to focus on. Likewise, masking devices can help constant ringing in the ears through the same method except that these devices can be worn like hearing aids to assist all throughout the day and night.
Many people who have to cope with constant ringing in the ears because of an untreatable injury or hearing loss choose to try retraining therapy. This treatment helps the brain “get used to” to specific frequency it hears as a result of tinnitus (ringing in the ears). This way, the person isn’t as aware of the sound.
To reduce the severity of constant ringing in the ears, one is well advised to make certain lifestyle changes. Reducing the amount of caffeine and salt intake can significantly reduce the severity of the symptom. Smoking, tobacco products, and NSAID’s (pain medicines) have also been linked to the severity of constant ringing in the ears and should be avoided.
Herbal supplements such as ginkgo biloba might also help with constant ringing. Avoiding loud noises and regular exercise can also help. However, be mindful of extending the neck and jostling the head during exercise routines because these actions can make constant ringing in the ears louder or make the ears more sensitive to the sound.