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Ringing in the ears

The phrase ‘ringing in the ears’ is used to describe the symptom of tinnitus, a problem affecting up to 10% of people.


‘Ringing in the ears’ is also known as tinnitus – a condition which produces ‘phantom sounds’ in one or both ears without a corresponding external sound. The description of the noise varies from person to person but is most commonly described by those suffering the condition as a ’ringing in the ears’.

The condition has been described for a very long time - the word tinnitus originates from the Latin word, ‘tinnire’, meaning ‘to ring’ or ‘a ringing’.

The noise experienced can be irritating, troublesome and for some may affect everyday life activities. There are a number of therapies that can be used to help reduce the symptoms of tinnitus and although there is no ‘right’ treatment, options usually depend on whether there is a known cause for tinnitus.

My ears are ringing!

If you experience ‘ringing in the ears’, the important thing to remember is that you are not alone. It is estimated that around 1 in 10 people are affected by the condition at any one time. Many famous people have experienced tinnitus, including Beethoven who complained, ‘my ears whistle and buzz all day and night. I can say I am leading a wretched life’.

More recently Black Eyed Peas singer, Will.i.am reported that he doesn’t know what silence is anymore and ‘I can’t be quiet as that’s when I notice the ringing in my ears’. Barbra Streisand ascribes her volatile temperament to having suffered tinnitus from the age of seven years old.


The majority of people with tinnitus describe symptoms as a ringing in the ears. Whistling, hissing, buzzing, whooshing, humming or singing in the ears are a few of the other terms that have been used to describe tinnitus.

Follow the link for more information on tinnitus symptoms.

What causes ‘ringing in the ears’?

In some cases, tinnitus may be a symptom of another condition which can be easily treated. An ear infection can be treated with antibiotics, ear wax with ear drops, and in the elderly or in those with diminishing hearing, a hearing aid may solve the ringing in the ears.

The precise mechanism of tinnitus is not fully understood but it is commonly believed to be due to disturbances in the way that nerves work between the ear and the brain in some cases. Rarely, a blood vessel disorder may be the cause of tinnitus.

Follow the link for more information on tinnitus causes.

What tinnitus treatments are available?

Treatments for tinnitus can be dependent on the cause.If there is no underlying cause, no conventional medicines are available speciffor tinnitus, although there are a variety of treatments that can be tried to help reduce ringing in the ears such as:

  • A variety of relaxation techniques
  • Counselling groups and tinnitus advice
  • Herbal remedies and other complementary treatments
  • A change in diet

Follow the link for more information on tinnitus treatments.

Further reading:
Tinnitus symptoms
Tinnitus treatment
Tinnitus causes
Tinnitus self-help