Tinnitus is the sensation of hissing, buzzing or ringing in your ears. It can occur continuously or sporadically, varying in loudness, and can be felt more when background noise is low, such as while you are going to sleep. The sound may seem to come from one ear or both, from inside the head, or from a distance.

Most of us have experienced temporary, short-lived tinnitus, for instance after exposure to loud noise, such as after attending a loud concert. However, long-term chronic tinnitus, with symptoms that occur repeatedly for more than six, months are a cause for concern. People exposed to loud noises, older people, smokers, and patients of cardiovascular diseases are at greater risk of developing tinnitus.

Tinnitus is not a disorder itself, but is rather a symptom of disorders related to the ears. These disorders can vary from being simple to serious, and include:

  • Earwax blockage.

  • Diseases of the heart or blood vessels, such as high blood pressure or turbulent blood flow.

  • Noise-induced hearing loss.

  • Age-related hearing loss.

  • Otosclerosis (stiffening of bones in the ear).

  • Head and neck injuries.

  • Ear and sinus infections.

  • Meniere’s disease.

  • Hormonal changes in women.

  • Head or neck tumours that press on vessels in the head or neck can lead to tinnitus symptoms.

  • Thyroid problems.

  • Diabetes.

  • Allergies.

Taking some medications may also cause tinnitus or worsen the symptoms, such as certain antibiotics, unusually high doses of aspirin, certain anti-depressants, cancer medications or water pills (diuretics).

You will hear ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling, clicking or even roaring sounds if you have tinnitus, even if there may be no source of any external sound. The sound may vary from being low-pitched to louder, and you may hear it in one or both ears. At times, the sound can be quite disturbing and prevent you from concentrating on a task.

In general, the following are some other symptoms you may experience along with tinnitus:

  • Ear pain.

  • Anxiety about the cause and consequences of tinnitus.

  • Difficulty sleeping.

  • Depression.

  • Difficulty concentrating.

  • Decreased hearing.

Though many people with tinnitus assume they may be going deaf, it may not necessarily be an indication of a serious ear disorder.

In some cases you alone can hear the ringing and buzzing in your ears (subjective tinnitus). This could be due to problems in your inner, outer or middle ear or in the auditory nerves which affect your hearing. In rare cases, your doctor may be able to hear the sounds too (objective tinnitus). This could be caused by a blood vessel problem, an inner ear bone condition or muscle contractions.​

Temporary tinnitus that lasts a few minutes is not something to worry about. However, you must see a doctor if:

  • Tinnitus lasts for more than a week.

  • You have repeated episodes of tinnitus for more than six months.

  • Tinnitus interferes with your normal daily activities and affects your concentration and ability to complete tasks.

  • You experience hearing loss along with tinnitus.

  • You experience sudden symptoms of tinnitus.

  • You develop tinnitus after an ear, nose or throat infection.​

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

Your doctor will ask you about your current health, medical conditions, and medications to find out if an underlying condition is causing your tinnitus.

A physical examination of the ear with a special probe will be conducted to check for any blockage, such as earwax blockage, that could be causing the symptoms. Your doctor may also ask you to move your head, neck and jaw or even arms and legs to identify any changes in tinnitus due to these movements. This can help identify any underlying cause.

In some cases, you may be requested to take a hearing test to assess if tinnitus is accompanied by any hearing loss. Imaging tests, such as CT (Computerized Tomography) scan and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) may also be requested for further diagnosis of the disorder causing tinnitus.

Sometimes, your doctor will also be able to identify the cause of tinnitus with the help of the sound you may hear. For example, sounds of heartbeats or rushing and humming could indicate problems with blood vessels, low-pitched ringing could indicate the presence of Meniere’s disease or otosclerosis while high-pitched ringing indicates exposure to a loud noise. 

You can be assured of receiving multidisciplinary care at The Aga Khan University Hospital for diagnosis and treatment of tinnitus. Discuss your symptoms, as well as other queries and concerns you may have in detail with your doctor.​

If your tinnitus is a symptom of another underlying condition, your doctor will first start the treatment of that disorder. Sometimes tinnitus goes away spontaneously without any intervention.

However, there may be cases when tinnitus cannot be cured altogether and your doctor will prescribe ways to best manage your symptoms.

Some treatment methods to help you manage symptoms of tinnitus include:

  • Hearing aids for people who suffer hearing loss with tinnitus.

  • Counselling to help you relax and ignore sensations of tinnitus.

  • Special electronic devices worn in the ear which generate white noise to help mask the sounds from tinnitus.

  • Use of white noise machines in the environment to create background noise to help you sleep.

  • Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications.

  • Cochlear implants for those who have tinnitus along with severe hearing loss.

You can work with your doctor to determine strategies for reducing tinnitus. Rest assured that you will receive high quality healthcare services from our dedicated staff at The Aga Khan University Hospital, the only internationally accredited hospital of Pakistan.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.