Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present.  Tinnitus can be described as ringing, buzzing, hissing, humming, swooshing or clicking.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that tinnitus affects over 50 million Americans (about 15 to 20 percent of people in the general public). Tinnitus may be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder.  Tinnitus can either be a temporary condition or a chronic (ongoing) condition, and ranges from mild (bothersome) to (extreme) debilitating. 

There is currently no known cure for most types of tinnitus. There are, however, treatment options that can ease the perceived burden of tinnitus, allowing patients to live more comfortable, productive lives. With support from trained healthcare professionals, treatments can significantly reduce the perceived burden of tinnitus.

There are many claims about different products, treatments, services and dietary practices, and their impact on tinnitus. However, very few of these claims have been scientifically proven. 

Evaluation for possible causes of tinnitus may include:

  • Hearing (audiological) exam. You'll sit in a soundproof room wearing headphones and you will indicate when you hear beeps at varying pitches. This can help rule out or identify possible causes of tinnitus.
  • Imaging tests. Depending on the suspected cause of your tinnitus, you may need imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans.

Possible treatments for tinnitus:

  • Removing impacted earwax can decrease tinnitus symptoms.
  • Treating underlying vascular (blood vessel) conditions with medication or surgery.
  • Changing your medication if it appears to be the cause of tinnitus.
  • Your doctor may recommend a white noise machine or masking devices (worn in the ear) to produce a continuous, low-level white noise that suppresses tinnitus symptoms.
  • Hearing aids may have masker (white noise) programs and can be especially helpful if you have hearing problems as well as tinnitus.  Ask our doctors of Audiology at Alexandria Hearing Centers for more details. 
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy: A wearable device delivers individually programmed tonal music to mask the specific frequencies of the tinnitus you experience. Over time, this technique may accustom you to the tinnitus, thereby helping you not to focus on it. Counseling is often a component of tinnitus retraining.


Drugs can't cure tinnitus, but in some cases they may help reduce the severity of symptoms or complications.

  • Antidepressants have been used with some success. However, these medications are generally used for only severe tinnitus, as they can cause troublesome side effects, including dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation and heart problems.
  • Anti-anxiety drugs may help reduce tinnitus symptoms, but side effects can include drowsiness and nausea. It can also become habit-forming.
  • The use of a steroid placed into the middle has been shown to be effective for some people.

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