My husband has a constant buzzing in his ears, can you tell me what causes this? Sometimes it affects his hearing.
Buzzing in the ears is known as tinnitus. Some people with tinnitus hear different kinds of noises, such as ringing, roaring, whistling, hissing or a range of other sounds. The noise can be continuous, intermittent or pulsating, and sometimes the sound can be amplified by specific activities.
Tinnitus is actually pretty common, affecting an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population. It is more like a symptom than a disease. We do not have a good understanding of how tinnitus works, but research into its causes and treatments is ongoing.
Many things can cause tinnitus, including nearly every ear disorder, such as infections, Meniere’s disease, a hole in the ear drum, an impacted clump of earwax, hearing loss, exposure to overly loud noises and tumors. Other possible causes include certain medications (such as aspirin and antibiotics), allergies, high blood pressure, Lyme disease, diabetes and more. Despite the long list, sometimes a cause cannot be pinpointed.
Your husband should definitely see his physician and most likely he will be referred to an ear specialist. It often takes a great deal of investigation to identify a cause. In a few cases, treating the underlying problem will clear up the tinnitus completely. Unfortunately, that is not the usual outcome.
More typically, tinnitus is difficult to deal with, even when the cause is known. Treatment may consist of coping mechanisms, lifestyle changes and medical therapies where appropriate. Hearing aids are sometimes helpful, as are “tinnitus maskers,” which produce a low-level background noise that masks the tinnitus sound. There are small maskers that can be worn like a hearing aid.
Lifestyle changes may help some individuals reduce the severity of the noise. The American Academy of Otolaryngology (a professional association of ear, nose and throat doctors) recommends several lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding caffeine, getting regular aerobic exercise, getting enough sleep and avoiding loud noises.