Noise-Induced Tinnitus

Tinnitus, (“tinn’- nit – us” or “tin – night – us”), a ringing or other noise in the ears or head, is most often a subjective experience. It can be intermittent or constant, mildly annoying or, for some, very distressing.  Although the exact cause of tinnitus is unknown, many patients who have a history of noise exposure have tinnitus.  Noise is by far the most probable cause of tinnitus, and it may or may not occur simultaneously with hearing loss.  Most patients who have tinnitus also have hearing problems, but a small percentage (less than 10%) have hearing that is within normal limits.

Tinnitus that results from noise exposure can occur suddenly or very gradually.  When it occurs suddenly, it is often perceived at a fairly loud volume and may persist at that level permanently.  However, for some, the tinnitus is temporary and does not return.

More commonly, the onset of noise-induced tinnitus is gradual and intermittent in its early stages.  Patients report hearing a mild form of tinnitus for a short period of time following exposure to loud sounds.  Once the patient is removed from the noise source, the tinnitus soon diminishes and is inaudible until the next exposure. This intermittent pattern often continues for months or years with the periods of tinnitus becoming longer and longer.  Eventually the tinnitus is constant.  Continuous exposure to loud noise can aggravate tinnitus and patients may perceive an increase in loudness and a change in pitch.

Most patients who have a long history of noise exposure complain of tinnitus that is tonal in quality and high-pitched.  Many patients report their tinnitus to be above 3000 Hz (a very high pitch).  If the tinnitus is bothersome enough, or if it begins to impact on the person’s quality of life, the patient will usually seek medical attention.  When the situation exceeds a person’s ability to cope, stress can result which can then interfere with leading a normal life.  There are many therapies currently being used to relieve tinnitus.

  • Masking
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
  • The Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment
  • The Sound Cure Tinnitus Treatment
  • The Widex Zen Device
  • Biofeedback
  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Drug Therapy
  • Hypnosis
  • Acupuncture
  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Treatment
  • The following are some stress reduction tips:
    • Learn to relax:
    • Pay attention to yourself.
    • Simple exercises can help.
    • Use mental imagery.
  • Exercise every day.
  • Smile!
  • Learn more about tinnitus.
  • Avoid loud noise– loud noise is the enemy of the tinnitus patient.
  • Talk to other people who have tinnitus.
  • Get regular and restful sleep.
  • Contact the American Tinnitus Association.

Find out more about Tinnitus on our Frequently asked Questions page.