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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Tinnitus, The Annoying Sound Inside Your Head

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 2nd 2008

 Do you experience a ringing, swishing or buzzing sound inside of your ears? If not, do you know anyone who complains about this problem? I am one person among 36 million people who is affected by this problem. I am happy to report that I am not among the 7 million who are so distracted by the noise that they cannot work or function.

It is important to understand that people who experience tinnitus are not crazy and are not pretending or hallucinating. This is a problem that is still not well understood and appears to have no cure. However, there are ways to either reduce its impact or prevent it from happening.

Objective and Subjective Tinnitus:

There are two types of tinnitus, objective and subjective. Objective tinnitus is caused by noise originating from inside the body. In fact, if someone was in a dark chamber with the absence of inside or outside sound, they would experience tinnitus. Anything that blocks outside noise will make a person aware of their internal body noises, the objective form of tinnitus. However, by far the most common form of tinnitus is subjective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is caused by abnormal activity in the nerve fibers without any actual sound being made. Mostly, this is the type of tinnitus that will be discussed here.

What Causes Tinnitus?

1. One of the most common causes of tinnitus is damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear.

2. As people age it is common to have a certain amount of hearing nerve impairment. This impairment causes and tinnitus.

3. Exposure to loud noises is a very common cause of tinnitus, and it often damages hearing as well. Unfortunately, many people are unconcerned about the harmful effects of excessively loud noises such as from firearms, high intensity music and July fourth explosions. As we are all well aware, we live in a loud world.

4. Some medications, such as aspirin, can either cause tinnitus or exacerbate the condition. 

5. Some diseases of the inner ear, like Meniere's syndrome, can cause tinnitus.

6. Tinnitus can in very rare situations be a symptom of such serious problems as an aneurysm or a brain tumor.

7. I have known people whose tinnitus was caused by a sinus infection or other types of sinus diseases. When the infection clears, the tinnitus seems to clear.

8. Putting things in your ears, such as Q tips to clean your ears, can cause damage leading to tinnitus.


The first thing a person should do if they are experiencing these uncomfortable sounds in their ear is to be seen by a Medical Doctor. Obviously, it is important to rule out any serious physical problems that could be the root cause of this condition. However, after any disease process is ruled out then, there are a number of things people can do to get relief from this annoying noise in the ear.

1. Aspirin and other similar products should be used with great care as they can irritate tinnitus.

2. Avoid loud and shocking noises. Listening to music through an IPod or ear phones is all right if the volume is kept low. In fact, it is head phones and Ipods that have probably contributed to this inner ear because loud music blasting into the ears causes damage.

3. It is known that stress and anxiety can worsen the condition. While it is impossible to completely avoid stress and anxiety, it is possible to reduce its effects.

Tinnitus is annoying but is not dangerous. However, I do want to repeat a cautionary note: If you are experiencing these noises please go to the Medical Doctor, especially an Ear Nose and Throat(ENT) doctor. The purpose is to rule out and disease or organic process. However, once those are ruled out and you have been told it is tinnitus, then use some of the relaxation techniques mentioned above.

As the old television commercial said, "do not put anything in your ears...except your elbow." I have read that wax in the ears has an important role that is serves to protect the ears.

Remember, we live in a noisy world made worse by Ipods and ear phones. Turn down the levels of noise and, as they say, "chill out, man!!"

Your comments are welcome

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD




Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

It can be scary. - - Mar 3rd 2015

There was a time when I'd be sleeping and this sound would wake me up. I got so scared my blood pressure went up, my sphincters went loose, my whole body had tremors, I went into shock both mentally and physically. It was very frightening. I was sent to see a neurologist and she said I have autonomic neuropathy. 

Not just Tinitis??? - frank - Feb 6th 2015

I read your article. I have many psycological conditiions. I just dont know what they are. I have Mass. State insurance and can not get a legitimate diagnosis for anything. I hear strange hissing sounds and ringing which i can live with. But I also hear voices which sometimes make fun of me, like criticise me for my physical sleep habits. They seem evil. I also hear noises while i sleep or awaken. The white noise of my Fridge or heaters sound like children playing, laughing and sometimes crying. I also hear evil people making them cry by being mean. Many of the voices are a similar but foriegn language like Latin. I lose quality sleep and have a dificult time getting up and trying to make the money I need to live. This does not seem like the basic Tinitis to me. Could I be crazy or suffer from something like Scitzophrenia???

           please answer me,


head noises - - Feb 22nd 2013

can this also cause music in your head. i know about the ring and buzzing. It gets very annoying. thanks

tinnitus - javedkarim - Jun 27th 2010

i m hearing this type of noise last 10 years last two year i lost my hearing from left ear and hbp i never use medicne only for hbp but no pain sleeping is ok is there any solution i m 60 thanks    javed

Noise - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Sep 19th 2009

You are both welcome and I am pleased that you have benefited from the article. Now, there is even new research where it is thought that "brain plasticity" plays a role in tinnitus. You see, we now know that any neuron (nerve cell) can function like any other one. In other words, even the optic nerve, necessary for sight, could take over if the auditory nerves are destroyed (just a hypothetical). Well it is now thought that tinnitus actually does occur in our heads but not because we are crazy. Some nerves in the ears have been damaged over years and years for many reasons. Well, the brain acts as though it is still receiving sounds from those nerves even though it is not. It's like the phantom limb phenomenon where a person could lose an arm but still feels itches in the arm. The brain is convinced that it is still receiving information from the missing arm. Same in tinnitus.

As a result, there are treatments that reteaches the brain so that you hear less noise or none at all. You need to speak to your Ear Nose and Throat Doctor about this.

Dr. Schwartz

Thank you - - Sep 19th 2009

I thought I was losing my mind.  This constant swishing sound inside my head.  Thank you for this informative article.

thank you - - Apr 21st 2009

thank you  for your article my dad is been diagnosed with tinnitus and your article helps me to understand what it really is and understand him as well

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