8 Reasons Your Ears Are Ringing Randomly and What to Do About It
Random ringing in your ears can be very annoying. Known as tinnitus, this exasperating condition (which can be chronic or temporary) is a common complaint. But what exactly causes ringing in the ears?
An estimated 15% of Americans, or more than 50 million people, suffer from some form of tinnitus during their lifetime, according to the Tinnitus Association of America (AT).
We spoke with Cecelia Damask, DOa board-certified otolaryngologist (ENT), to understand the reasons for ringing in the ears and the best strategies for finding relief.
Tinnitus isn’t always a ringing sound — it can also be a buzzing, hissing, hissing, rustling or rattling sound, according to the ATA.
Ironically, the loud ringing in your ears may signal that you are hard of hearing.
“Overall, most tinnitus is thought to be sensorineural, meaning it is due to hearing loss in the cochlea. [part of the inner ear] and the cochlear nerve,” says Dr. Damask.
When the hair cells in the cochlea are damaged, the auditory pathways don’t receive the signal they expect from the inner ear, says Dr. Damask.
As a result, “the brain produces abnormal nerve signals to compensate for the missing input,” she says. These abnormal nerve signals result in tinnitus that you hear ringing in your ears.
Fix it:Consult an audiologist, who can perform a hearing test to determine if hearing loss could be the cause of the ringing in your ears. According to Cleveland Clinic.
2. Exposure to loud sounds
Have you ever wondered why your ears ring randomly after a concert?
Here’s why: “Exposure to loud sound can damage the hair cells in your inner ear,” says Dr. Damask. “These hair cells ‘transmit’ random electrical impulses to your brain, which then causes tinnitus.”
According to the Cleveland Clinic.
fix it: To reduce ringing (and damage to your hearing), wear hearing protection like foam earplugs or noise canceling headphones when you’re exposed to loud noise, Dr. Damask says.
Earwax can cause a random ringing in your ear for a few seconds. According to Mayo Clinic.
“However, anything that blocks normal hearing can bring somatic sounds [like ringing in the ears] to our attention,” says Dr. Damask. “This can happen when earwax blocks the external ear canal.
Additionally, “if you have a buildup of fluid in your middle ear (otitis media), you may also have a blockage of normal hearing, which could lead to tinnitus,” says Dr. Damask.
Fix it:“Never try to extract earwax with anything like a cotton swab or paper clip, [as] you can push the wax further into your ear canal and potentially damage the lining of your ear canal or eardrum,” says Dr. Damask. “If the earwax is impacted, you will need to see an ENT to have it removed.
There are several ways to remove earwax: Your doctor may use a small, curved instrument (called a curet), gentle suction, or water to rinse it out, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Over-the-counter ear cleaning drops and baby oil can also help remove earwax safely.
“Certain medications can cause or worsen tinnitus,” says Dr. Damask. Indeed, there is quite a long list of medications that can upset your ears, including:
- Over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin and other NSAIDs like Advil, Motrin, Aleve, and ibuprofen
- Certain antibiotics like cipro, gentamicin, vancomycin, tetracycline, and tobramycin
- High doses of loop diuretics given intravenously like Lasix, Demadex, and Bumex
- Some antidepressants like Elavil
- Certain chemotherapy drugs including cisplatin and vincristine
“In general, the higher the dose of these medications, the worse the tinnitus gets,” says Dr. Damask.
Fix it:“If you’re starting a new medication and you notice tinnitus, tell the doctor who prescribed it,” Dr. Damask says. “They may refer you to an ENT for an audiogram for further evaluation.”
Fortunately, tinnitus often goes away when you stop using these medications, says Dr. Damasks. Nevertheless, always talk to your doctor before stopping taking any prescribed medication.
Believe it or not, the ringing in your ears can be linked to a jaw or teeth problem, says Dr. Damask.
For example, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can cause popping or clicking sounds when you open your mouth, depending on the Mayo Clinic.
Additionally, teeth grinding, jaw clenching, and muscle tension can also make tinnitus more noticeable, Dr. Damask says.
fix it: If you think your ringing in the ears is related to dental or jaw problems, you should see a dentist or TMJ specialist to help manage the underlying problem. For some people, wearing a night protector can relieve grinding and clenching and may even reduce ringing in the ears, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The meaning of the ringing in your right or left ear could be related to your noggin.
“Trauma to the head or neck can damage the inner ear, auditory nerves, or brain functions associated with hearing,” says Dr. Damask. “These injuries can cause tinnitus in only one ear.”
Additionally, ringing in the ears after a head injury can also be a side effect of a biomechanical problem in the head, neck, or jaw, according to the Cleveland Clinic. For example, tinnitus is a possible symptom of whiplash, which occurs when the neck forcibly bends forward and then backward, depending on the Mayo Clinic.
fix it: Talk to your doctor if you experience strange symptoms like ringing in the ears after a head injury.
And if you play high-contact sports or work in a high-risk location, like a construction site, always wear head protection to help prevent a head injury, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
7. Underlying medical conditions
Other serious underlying health conditions can cause ringing in the ears.
For example, tinnitus can be a sign of Ménière’s disease, which is characterized by the buildup of abnormal fluid pressure in your inner ear, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Conditions that affect blood vessels, such as high blood pressure, can also cause ringing in the ears. That’s because they pump blood through the arteries and veins more forcefully, Dr. Damask says. This turbulent flow can create a loud buzzing or thud in your ears.
Additionally, diabetes, thyroid disease, and certain tumors, such as an acoustic neuroma, can also be associated with tinnitus, Dr. Damask says.
Fix it:See your doctor, who can perform a thorough evaluation to diagnose or rule out any underlying medical conditions. Often, once the primary health issue is properly addressed, tinnitus tends to go away.
8. Certain Vitamin Deficiencies
Certain vitamin deficiencies can cause or contribute to major health problems. And this is especially true in the case of tinnitus.
For example, a lack of vitamin D, which is important for strong bones, muscles, nerves and immune function, is associated with an increased risk of ringing in the ears. Indeed, an August 2021 study in PLOS A found a strong correlation between lower vitamin D levels and tinnitus.
Insufficient intake of vitamin B12, which is essential for the formation of red blood cells and the functioning and development of brain and nerve cells, may also play a role in your ringing in the ears.
A March 2016 study in Noise and Healthfound that people with vitamin B12 deficiency experienced significant improvement in their tinnitus after being treated with weekly injections of vitamin B12 for six weeks.
Fix it:Speak to your doctor, who may perform a blood test to determine if you are suffering from a vitamin deficiency. In many cases, getting the nutrients you need can help with your tinnitus.