Tinnitus is a perception of sound often described as a ringing, buzzing or humming in the ears or head that affect millions of people. Usually accompanied by hearing loss, tinnitus has many causes including noise exposure, physical injury such as head trauma or whiplash, ear diseases, muscle spasms, circulatory changes, side effects from medication, nerve pathway irritation and central auditory system changes. Some 50 million Americans experience tinnitus, with more than 10 million seeking medical help.
For some, tinnitus symptoms are associated with depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and interference with concentration.
Our Approach to Tinnitus
At UCSF, our audiologists and ear specialists provide state-of-the-art evaluation and treatment for tinnitus. When patients report hearing unwanted sounds in their ears or head, we work to identify and address any underlying cause, such as hearing loss. We also have a variety of treatment options to improve symptoms.
Often, the best treatment plan includes a combination of behavioral counseling and acoustic therapy. Counseling helps patients manage the depression, anxiety and distraction that can accompany tinnitus. Acoustic methods – such as sound maskers, hearing aids or music therapy – can decrease patients' sensitivity to the noise they hear. Some patients also get relief from antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications. Our team works with each patient to tailor a plan to individual needs.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.