Why Do Our Ears Ring?

Art & Research: Kathryn Ravano

Further Reading Literature: Kathryn Ravano

Why Do Our Ears Ring?

What is Tinnitus? 

Have you ever heard that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus! Tinnitus is any constant noise in the ear. Most people will experience temporary tinnitus now and then, however, chronic tinnitus is consistent and maladaptive. The most common sound is ringing but people may also hear buzzing, clicking, or hissing. Tinnitus can be subjective, only heard by the affected person, or objective, able to be heard by the affected person and an examiner using a stethoscope. 

Why Do Ears Ring?

The cochlea is a hollow, circular organ filled with fluid found in the inner ear. Its membranes have  hair cells which contain protrusions called stereocilia. These stereocilia respond to fluid movement by sending electrical signals through the auditory nerve which are interpreted as sound. When stereocilia become damaged, due to damage, or age, they can malfunction and send false electrical signals interpreted by the brain as tinnitus. 

What Causes Tinnitus? 

Stereocilia damage can be detected through hearing loss which most commonly results from ear damage or age. However, many underlying ailments can also lead to stereocilia damage: ear infections, excess wax, hearing loss due to age, or head injury. Diseases such as Meniere disease (an inner ear disorder), Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), and diabetes have also been linked to tinnitus. Tinnitus can be exacerbated by excess caffeine, alcohol, and smoking. 

Can I Cure Tinnitus? 

Like many other health issues, sleeping enough, reducing stress, and maintaining a proper diet can all help to reduce tinnitus. Minimizing sinus congestion may also help with tinnitus. If tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying problem, treating the ailment may relieve the ear ringing. It is important to protect the ears from external damage and loud noises. Chronic tinnitus requires help from a medical professional such as an ear, nose, and throat doctor. 

Want to learn more about this topic?

Check out the additional resources below!