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When Should I Worry About Ringing in My Ears?

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"Why do I hear ringing in my ears?"
It's a concerning question to ask yourself.
If you hear ringing in your ears, you know just how bothersome or distracting this noise can be. And that it's distinctly different from those random, phantom sounds you might have heard on rare occasions after standing up too fast or while dealing with a headache.
"Hearing a continuous sound in one or both of your ears is called tinnitus," says Dr. Sara Chen Xie, an ENT doctor at Houston Methodist Baytown. "It's most often described as a ringing, but people can hear tinnitus differently."
The common descriptions of what tinnitus sounds like include:
• Low- or high-pitched tone
• Static or buzzing
• Humming
• Cricket-like sounds

"Tinnitus can vary over time, sometimes becoming fairly disruptive and even debilitating," says Dr. Xie. "If it's keeping you from carrying out or enjoying daily activities, it's time to do something about it."
What causes ringing in your ears?
"Hearing a continuous ringing in your ears is almost always a side effect of hearing loss, typically an early indication of it," says Dr. Xie. "Hearing loss happens in your ears, but the resulting ringing you may hear as a result does not. It's happening in your brain."
Your brain plays an integral role in hearing — making sense of the sounds around you by processing the information received from your ears. It helps you focus on the most relevant sounds you're hearing, distinguishing these from background sounds and filtering out unwanted noise.
As you can imagine, this is a busy job for your brain.
Hearing loss reduces the amount of sound your brain has to interpret, giving it less to do. Tinnitus is one unwanted consequence.
How do you stop the ringing in your ears?
The first step to treating tinnitus is to get your hearing checked by an audiologist.
If you have hearing loss and worsening tinnitus, the good news is that you don't have to live with a never-ending soundtrack of unwanted noise.
"When treating tinnitus, the goal is to activate and condition your auditory cortex — reinforcing it to listen to real sounds and training it to not think about the unwanted noise it's perceiving," says Dr. Xie.
Most people find success in using masking sounds to reduce their tinnitus, but this isn't always the case. Medications may be required.
It's also important to consult a doctor about your symptoms since, in rare cases, tinnitus can be a side effect of something other than hearing loss, which can change how your doctor approaches your care.

For more information on the full range of services offered at Houston Methodist ENT Specialists
Baytown and to schedule an appointment, visit or call 281-427-2747.