Ringing in the ears is commonly associated with a condition called tinnitus. Although the two terms are often used synonymously, tinnitus can refer to a variety of persistent noises that a person might hear inside the ears as opposed to coming from outside. Other sounds that are common are buzzing, whooshing or static sounds. There are many things that can cause ringing or other tinnitus symptoms, and persistent noise should always be evaluated by a healthcare professional to rule out potentially dangerous conditions.
Some people may notice slight ringing in the ears when they have colds and develop ear infections. Something as innocent as waxy buildup in the ears can also create ringing. It is very common for people exposed to loud noises, like at a rock concert, to temporarily damage their hearing, creating tinnitus. Sound trauma to the ears on a regular basis may cause significant hearing loss.
A number of different medications are associated with this problem as well. Some forms of oral birth control have been linked to tinnitus, and a few antibiotics may have it as a side effect. Most commonly, the noise is linked to aspirin and ibuprofen; other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may create the problem too. A common side effect of aspirin overdose is tinnitus, but the condition can occur even when medications are taken in lower and safer amounts. People who take either drug regularly might want to stop for a few days, with the approval of a healthcare professional, to see if this resolves the condition. Other find that lowering their caffeine intake may also relieve this annoying problem.
Sometimes, ringing in the ears is linked to serious medical conditions. People with high blood pressure, thyroid deficiency or with diabetes may experience tinnitus on a regular basis. Those who experience continued ringing should get a full medical workup to rule out these dangerous conditions or to diagnose them and begin treatment.
In rare cases, ringing sounds are linked to a benign tumor called an acoustic neuroma. The tumor arises between the vestibular and cochlear nerve, often called the eighth vestibular-cochlear nerve. In most instances, the tumor occurs on one side only, and ringing is linked to one side only. Though the tumor is located near the brain, it is usually possible to remove it with surgery, and it doesn't usually recur. Larger tumors may be difficult to remove and can damage hearing; the surgery is very delicate and patients must be monitored afterwards for potential hearing loss.