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Should you be worried about the ringing in your ears?

Should you be worried about the ringing in your ears?

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Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

It's not uncommon to experience ringing in your ears after you've been to a loud concert or sporting event, but you may wonder if this side effect is cause for alarm. The good news is that the ringing — which is called tinnitus — is temporary for most people. Yet the Journal of American Medical Association estimates that for about 14% of the population, the sound never stops.

Many describe it as ringing, but for others it can be a constant buzzing, roaring or whooshing sound. While most people learn to ignore it, it can be a source of anxiety, sleeplessness or even depression for some.

What causes tinnitus?

Recent research from Nature supports a theory that describes tinnitus as a phantom sound created by the brain to indicate that there's damage somewhere in the auditory system. In over 90% of cases, it's the direct result of nerves breaking down from the ear to the brain.

Loud events aren't the only culprit, either. It can also happen because of aging, trauma to the head or neck, certain medications and even viruses, such as COVID-19.

Clinical audiologist Dr. Layne Garrett has been treating tinnitus patients for over 25 years. He explains, "It's pretty simple when you think about it. Our brains are accustomed to receiving certain types of sound stimulation. When damage happens in our auditory system, also known as hearing loss, the brain is no longer getting that stimulation."

Tinnitus is your brain's way of filling that void.

"The brain tries to compensate for that loss with increased activity, which registers to us as ringing, whooshing, buzzing or some other phantom sound," Garrett says.

Testing for tinnitus

This type of hearing damage can be difficult to detect on a common pure tone test because those tests don't account for higher frequency losses where the problem may be occurring. In the Nature study, researchers placed electrodes on participants' ear canals to measure activity in the auditory system in response to certain sounds. This is also known as an auditory brainstem response (ABR) test.

The study results showed that there was far less activity in the auditory system in the participants with tinnitus than in those without. This suggests that those with tinnitus have damaged auditory nerves that no longer send signals to their brains, potentially triggering that phantom sound reaction.

How one patient found relief from tinnitus

Lynda is one of Garrett's patients who made an appointment after suffering from debilitating tinnitus for almost 50 years. Medical care professionals had told her there was nothing she could do other than learn to cope with it. After seeing an article about Timpanogos Hearing & Tinnitus, she called and scheduled an appointment.

Lynda started treatment and within weeks was already experiencing considerable relief. She was finally able to sleep at night and found that her hearing and energy levels were significantly improved.

"I came in and was fitted with hearing aids the first day," Lynda recalls. "And it was almost immediate that the hearing, it didn't seem louder to me, but I couldn't hear the ringing in my ears. And it's a miracle to me. It really is."

Should you be worried about the ringing in your ears?
Photo: Peakstock/

Why treatment is important

If left untreated, this condition can lead to much more serious problems. A recent study in Frontiers in Neuroscience showed a strong association between tinnitus and an elevated risk of dementia-compromised learning, auditory attention, anxiety, depression and poor sleep quality.

Although there's no cure for tinnitus, there are effective treatment options available to significantly reduce or even eliminate the symptoms. Garrett, who recently presented his treatment results at a national convention on tinnitus at the Harvard Club in Boston, explains that his clinics use a two-pronged approach to treating tinnitus.

"There are most often physiological components (such as hearing loss) as well as negative emotional components of tinnitus, and we find the most successful treatment accounts for both," Garrett says. "This means starting with a comprehensive evaluation to determine exactly what damage has occurred and what effects the damage is having on your hearing and cognition."

After pinpointing the damage, Garrett and his team use special hearing technology to reintroduce the stimulation the brain is missing from the damaged nerves. The second part of the treatment plan involves an eight-week online tinnitus adaptation program to help patients understand and cope with the emotional and cognitive effects of the condition.

Get relief from the ringing in your ears

Lynda's story is no different from several other patients who've found relief at Timpanogos Hearing & Tinnitus. If you're interested in learning more about tinnitus treatment or to see if you qualify for a tinnitus evaluation, go to or call 801-770-0801.

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Timpanogos Hearing & Tinnitus


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