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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Buzzing in the head

12/30/2004

Question:

I am a 52 years old man. I had a surgery to repair the drum in my left ear 15 years ago. It was successful at the time. Since a year or more, I started hearing a buzzing sound in my head all the time. Now it very irritating. Please tell me what to do? The las MD I visited told me there is no cure and that I have to live with it. Thank you very much in advance.

Answer:

"Buzzing in the head" is a very common complaint and can also be a very difficult problem to fix. But I'd advise you that there is frequently something that can be done for very intrusive "tinnitus" (which is the term for noises that people hear in their ears or head). First, it's necessary to rule out any serious medical problem that can cause tinnitus and that should be treated. For example, anything ranging from medications, inner ear tumors, serious infections, or even noise exposure can cause tinnitus. An otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat physician) typically evaluates patients with tinnitus and would perform a thorough head and neck examination along with a hearing test as the initial workup for someone complaining of buzzing in their head. Additional studies might include an MRI scan or CT scan to better assess the problem. Sometimes, the management of tinnitus may include a period of observation (watching and waiting). In other cases, stopping certain medications can relieve the tinnitus. In still other cases, tinnitus can accompany "normal" age-related hearing loss and using a hearing aid can not only help the hearing loss but seems to alleviate the tinnitus in some patients as well. Finally, there are some medications that can be used for suppressing tinnitus. These medications can have side-effects, so the risks-benefits of using those medications have to be weighed against how bothersome the tinnitus is for a patient.

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Response by:

Daniel   Choo, MD Daniel Choo, MD
Associate Professor and Director, Division of Otology/Neurotology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati