Headache and Ringing In Ears: Should I be worried?

Many of us experience headaches and ringing in the ears at some point throughout life, but are both symptoms part of something more serious? When both symptoms are experienced together, it may be a sign of developing tinnitus, but not in all cases.

Headache Causes

Headaches can happen for a number of reasons, but many causes for headaches can be quite benign and not serious:

  • Dehydrated
  • Headache disorder
  • Increased stress levels or anxiety
  • Drastic change in weather pressure
  • Sinus infection

Because migraines and headaches can often happen somewhat randomly and without warning, individual’s who deal with these conditions may experience general stress and anxiety about when the next one will hit. This can impact your day-to-day life, and actually make it more likely for an attack due to increased stress.

Getting headaches because of dehydration can be easily fixed as long as you remember to drink enough water each day. If this is something you continuously struggle with, you can set reminders on your phone or computer to remind you to drink enough water.

If you suffer from consistent, painful headaches, it’s important to talk to your doctor. They may be able to prescribe medications like beta blockers to help prevent migraines and reduce headaches. Currently, the FDA has approved two beta blockers, propranolol and timolol, as preventative measures.

Ringing in Ears Causes

When you experience a ringing in ears sensation, there can be a few different causes:

  • Exposure to loud noises and sounds, such as fireworks, concerts or club music
  • Neck pain or injury
  • Certain jaw disorders
  • Tinnitus
  • Increased blood flow through blood vessels (may be caused by high blood pressure)

Tinnitus and Headaches

Tinnitus is an audiological and neurological condition where the individual hears a sound with no external source. It could be a ringing in the ears sensation, or it can sound like buzzing, whistling, humming or clicking, among many other different noises. While tinnitus is not researched as in-depth as other conditions, it is experienced by about 1 in 5  Americans. These sounds can vary in pitch, frequency and severity, all depending on the person and the situation.

Many patients report that tinnitus symptoms, such as ringing in the ears, gets worse during migraine attacks. It’s also researched that 45% of those with tinnitus also suffer from anxiety disorders.

Those who suffer from tinnitus and those who deal with headaches share similar issues and complaints. Both may experience increased anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances and impaired cognition.

Headache and ringing in ears

When should I talk to my doctor?

If your symptoms become consistent, chronic and impede on the quality of life, it’s important to talk to your doctor. We all experience headaches and/or ringing in the ears at some points in life, but most don’t require a doctor’s visit until they become serious in severity. In addition, if you begin to experience additional symptoms, such as potential hearing loss, visiting your doctor will be very important.

You may experience ringing in the ears after visiting a live concert. This doesn’t necessarily require a doctors visit, unless the ringing in the ears doesn’t go away.

Treatment for headache and ringing in ears

While your headaches may not be a result of tinnitus, or vice versa, there are a few treatment options that can help decrease symptoms and improve your quality of life:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Studies into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) show evidence of reduced migraine attacks with no typical side effects normally felt through medication. If the individual is able to reduce their migraines and headaches, their tinnitus symptoms may also become less noticeable. CBT is a great option for those who are looking for a drug-free treatment plan, or those with health complications and are unable to take medication.

CBT works to change the way the individual reacts to certain situations and is often used in therapy for a variety of conditions, including anxiety and depression.

Sound Therapy

If the ringing in the ears sensation becomes too distracting, sound therapy can be used to help retrain the brain to ignore those sounds. By listening to music, brown noise or natural sounds, the brain can “forget” the sound of tinnitus and focuses its attention elsewhere.

However, it’s important that whatever sound is being played at a volume slightly below the tinnitus. If the external sound is too loud (and completely masks the tinnitus) this retraining therapy won’t be successful. This means once the external sound is stopped, your tinnitus could sound even louder than before.

Sound therapy can be done with your music player, tinnitus-specific hearing aids, or sound generators for your home.

Biofeedback

While this isn’t a technique you can begin at home, it’s a viable option for learning how to minimize your tinnitus, stress levels, and potentially your headaches as well.

When using the biofeedback technique, electrodes are attached to the individual’s skin and record information. This includes details like muscle tension and heart rate during a stressful situation. You can then use that information to change how you deal with stress by altering your thoughts and feelings and being mindful about stresses effects on your body.

While more information is needed on tinnitus, it’s well documented that stress and anxiety can make tinnitus symptoms worse, as well as increase the likelihood of headaches and migraines.

Other headache and tinnitus connections

A vestibular migraine has been connected with tinnitus and is a serious condition that should not be ignored. These types of migraines may not result in a traditional headache, but involve serious symptoms that impact the ears, balance and vision.

Those who suffer from these types of migraines may experience vertigo, dizziness, neck pain, or develop tinnitus. They may also have issues turning their head or looking up or down. Headaches and blurred vision may also become present.

While it’s not fully understood what causes these migraines, some believe it is due to the widening of blood vessels around the brain and near the inner ear. Blood pressure changes may also cause Pulsatile tinnitus.

If you experience these symptoms, your doctor may refer you to a specialist who can formally make a diagnosis. They may be able to prescribe preventative medications or recommend certain lifestyle changes. These could include removing triggers like stress, alcohol consumption and adding positive habits like a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Quiet Mind is a blog dedicated to turning a critical eye to tinnitus treatments and supplements.  So many don’t work and are overhyped, we’re here to shed some light on some of the scams and successful products that claim to stop the ringing.

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