Tinnitus in one ear - what does it mean?

Tinnitus In One Ear – What Does It Mean?

Tinnitus impacts everyone differently, including which ear tinnitus sounds manifest in. People with tinnitus may be concerned if they experience tinnitus in one ear, whether it’s the left or right. Does the ear indicate anything?

While there isn’t enough research for tinnitus currently, there is no evidence that tinnitus in the left ear is worse than tinnitus in the right, or vice versa. Tinnitus symptoms vary from person to person, but the sounds can be heard in one ear, both ears, or even sound like it’s far away or inside the individual’s head. The sound may be steady or pulsing, heard sometimes or constantly.

For some, tinnitus can greatly impact the quality of life of the individual, no matter which ear the tinnitus is in.

Tinnitus is a sound with no external source, so it makes sense that which “ear” is hearing the noise doesn’t makes a difference. Tinnitus can be heard as ringing in the ears, a constant humming noise, or even various buzzing or whistling noises. The pitch and frequency is also unique to the individual.

While many of us have experienced short-term ringing in the ears, such as after attending a concert with loud sounds, cases that last more than six months are considered chronic tinnitus.

Causes of tinnitus

As with various symptoms varying person to person, there are numerous different reasons for tinnitus making it difficult to pindown. Most cases are subjective tinnitus, meaning it is only heard by the individual. In these cases, causes of tinnitus could be:

  • A result of Meniere’s disease which is a condition that impacts the inner ear and the individual’s balance
  • Middle ear issues, such as infections or injuries
  • Age related hearing loss
  • Impacted earwax
  • Exposure to loud noise over time
  • Certain medications cause tinnitus-like symptoms as side effects, including high doses of aspirin and acetaminophen
  • Hearing loss to some degree
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Damage and loss of the tiny hair cells in the inner ear
  • The temporomandibular joint (TMJ disorders)
  • High blood pressure, or conditions that increase blood vessel size

While there is no hard evidence that tinnitus in one ear is worse than in the other, it’s important to first find the cause of tinnitus. You may have experienced a head or neck injury on the left side of your head, which caused tinnitus in that ear. Or there may be a compacted build-up of earwax in your right ear, causing tinnitus in the right ear. You may have heard a very loud noise in one ear, causing potential hearing loss and tinnitus in that ear.

These examples have a connection to which ear the tinnitus is heard from, but this isn’t always the case. You may not be able to find a link between an event and your tinnitus, just that you are experiencing symptoms. While this can be frustrating, there are still ways you can manage your tinnitus symptoms, even with at-home remedies.

Tinnitus in one ear

Types of tinnitus

Apart from the various causes of tinnitus, there are two different types of tinnitus:

Objective Tinnitus – These tinnitus sounds can be heard by other people, including the patient. Because they are audible, the sounds are usually caused by an internal issue with the body’s blood flow, a middle ear bone issue or incorrect muscle contractions. This type of tinnitus only represents about 1% of all tinnitus causes, so it’s incredibly rare. However, objective tinnitus, or pulsatile tinnitus, is commonly heard only in one ear.

Subjective Tinnitus – These tinnitus sounds are the most common and can only be heard by the individual with tinnitus. Typically these cases are symptoms of hearing loss, but as mentioned above there can be a number of different causes.

While there currently is no cure for tinnitus, no matter what ear the tinnitus sounds come from, there are some ways of managing tinnitus symptoms that can be very beneficial.

Home remedies for tinnitus

Depends on the individual, there are various home remedies for tinnitus that can be helpful in reducing symptoms. While not all treatment options will be successful for all sufferers of tinnitus, it’s important to find what works best for you.

Sound therapy

Utilizing sound therapy has been a popular tinnitus treatment for many years and has helped numerous people with tinnitus. Tinnitus is most noticeable in quiet environments, so it’s helpful to reduce the silence with other external sounds. Using options like playing brown noise can help cover the tinnitus sounds and help your brain forget that they’re there. Sounds can be played while sleeping, or through tinnitus-specific hearing aids throughout the day.

However, it’s important that whatever sound or music is being played, at whatever time of day, is slightly quieter than the tinnitus sounds. If the external sound completely covers up the tinnitus, once it stops playing your tinnitus may sound even more noticeable than before.

People have found that utilizing this technique has helped reduce their tinnitus symptoms over time.

Minimize binge drinking

Excessive alcohol consumption can dilate your blood vessels and cause your blood flow to increase. This can increase tinnitus symptoms for many people and cause the sounds to be much more noticeable than usual. Caffeine also has the ability to make your tinnitus more noticeable and caffeine-levels should be monitored.

Research has also shown that repeated alcohol consumption, or binge drinking, can lead to hearing loss and other issues that could also worsen your tinnitus.

While drinking in moderation shouldn’t cause any issues, it’s important to keep an eye on your alcohol consumption overall.

Relaxation techniques

It’s known that stress and anxiety can make tinnitus worse, so understand relaxation techniques is incredibly important. Practising activities like meditation (with sound or music), exercise and/or deep breathing may provide relief from tinnitus.

Other experiences like visiting a spa or getting a massage may also help you relax and lessen the symptoms of tinnitus. Even just playing spa-music while you’re working may help you relax and reduce stress.

Beware of supplements

One thing to keep in mind when researching at home remedies for tinnitus is ineffective supplements. There have been numerous sketchy products like Tinnitus 911, Silence Complete and Quiet Mind Plus that were marketed as “tinnitus cures.” Almost all of these types of supplements have been discontinued, but it’s important to do your research before spending money on a tinnitus supplement. Because there are so many different causes for tinnitus, it’s difficult to find relief from a one-size-fits-all supplement.

Conclusion

There is no hard evidence that tinnitus in one ear is worse than tinnitus in the other. By first understanding the cause of your tinnitus, you may see a connection with which ear you hear the tinnitus sounds from. Otherwise, there may be no reason you hear it in one ear versus the other.

While there is no cure for tinnitus, many people find relief from various treatment options. These may even be ones you may do at home by yourself. If your tinnitus symptoms are impacting on your quality of life, it’s important to visit your doctor. They can find out what treatment options are available for you, such as hearing aids or compacted ear wax that they can reduce.

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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