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Ask the doctor: Ringing in the ears

Q. Over the past few months, I have noticed a constant low-level ringing in my left ear. How can I make it stop?

A. It sounds like you have tinnitus, caused by a malfunction in the hearing nerve, either from loud noises or age-related changes. Pulsatile tinnitus, in which the sound changes in time with your heartbeat, is a special situation often related to blood vessel problems.

There is no simple cure for tinnitus, but the following steps might make it easier to live with:

  • If you have tinnitus and hearing loss, using a hearing aid might make the tinnitus less noticeable.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy could help you to see the tinnitus in a less negative way and teach you ways to distract yourself from the sounds.

  • Tinnitus retraining therapy aims to gradually “retrain the brain” to get used to the tinnitus.

  • Some people find it helpful to cover up or “mask” the tinnitus with recorded music or a sound-generating device worn in the ear.

  • Biofeedback and other stress-reduction techniques can lessen the emotional distress caused by tinnitus.

See your doctor for an ear exam and referral for a hearing test. If you have pulsatile tinnitus, you may need an evaluation of the blood vessels near the brain. The good news about tinnitus is that the intensity and bother of the symptoms often diminish over time.

— William Kormos, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Men’s Health Watch

Posted by: Dr.Health

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