Harvard Health Letter

Tips for living with tinnitus

Strategies to combat that constant ringing in your ears.

Do you hear a constant ringing in your ears? You may be among the millions of Americans living with tinnitus, a sound that may annoy you or even interfere with daily living. "While most patients are aware of their tinnitus without a negative impact on their overall quality of life, I do have patients who can't concentrate at work or sleep at night because they're always hearing their tinnitus," says Dr. Felipe Santos, an otolaryngologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

Causes

Aging, loud noises, or certain medicines (such as high doses of aspirin) can damage the hearing apparatus (bones and nerves) in our ears. Some people experience temporary tinnitus triggered by migraines or caffeine consumption. Evidence shows hearing centers in the brain can malfunction, creating "sounds" that aren't there.

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