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June 29th, 2011
07:24 AM ET

How can I stop this high-pitched noise?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

Question asked by Alex from Bulgaria

Two weeks ago I began having a really disturbing sound in my ears. The noise is constant, with high frequency. I can hear it almost all the time, especially in the mornings. Why is this happening? I have not had any accidents. What can I do about it?

Expert answer:

I believe what you are describing is called tinnitus.

It is a sound that can be a buzzing, ringing, hissing or other noise. It is perceived as a sound near the head or within one or both ears. The sound can be continuous, pulsating or intermittent.

It is estimated that one out of every six people experience tinnitus for a prolonged period at some time during his or her life. Most are older.

A quarter of those experiencing it have such severe tinnitus that it affects their daily activities.

A general practice physician might refer the patient with tinnitus to an otolaryngologist (a doctor specializing in diseases of the ears, nose and throat). The physician will interview the patient, taking a history of the symptoms, getting a description of the noise and do a complete head and neck examination, with emphasis on the nerves of the head and neck (cranial nerves).

The patient should also have a hearing evaluation. Other tests are often warranted, depending on the circumstances.

In the discussion, the physician will be looking for a history of noise exposure or a head injury that could have caused inner ear injury.

Symptoms suggesting jaw problems (tempromandibular joint, or TMJ), hypertension, atherosclerosis or neurologic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis are pertinent, because they can cause tinnitus.

A review of the patient's drugs and supplements also is necessary. Aspirin, other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, anti-hypertensives and anti-depressants are among the more than 20 common drugs that can cause tinnitus.

When tinnitus is pulsing, rushing, flowing or humming, a vascular problem should be suspected. This can be a constriction of blood flow in an artery.

Vascular-based tinnitus often changes intensity or pitch with changes in head motion or body position (lying, sitting, or standing).

Clicking tinnitus is commonly due to drugs or problems in the middle ear. A high-pitched continuous tone is commonly the result of a nerve or inner ear injury. Treatment is aimed at fixing the underlying abnormality, when it can be identified.

Cochlear (inner ear) implants can benefit some patients with severe inner ear nerve damage and hearing loss. Vascular abnormalities can be fixed surgically.

Medical treatments for this condition, other than removing a drug that causes tinnitus, have limited effectiveness.

For many the goal should be to lessen awareness and impact on quality of life. Biofeedback and cognitive behavior therapy may be useful.


soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. Michael

    I'm 16 and I've had a ringing in my left ear for about a week, I have to study i have 2 AP classes and drivers ed this is driving me insane it gets louder and more steady every day
    I havent slept in 3 days!!! is there any chance at all of this going away or do I have to deal with it until i do something???

    August 5, 2012 at 03:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Neal

    Had that for about a year believe goverment are testing out a weapon mind weopon done with sound high frequency that has faint voice in different speeds of pulse causes headache stand up straight when there using it believe trying to do all the world also found head goes numb tingling on the head belive might be using microwaves same as the old system but broadcast through towers goverment are using game as a cover over here. Alot people doing hand moves with the game and when watch tv

    August 6, 2012 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • james

      only person to really answer my question. just walking up to my house when i stopped to really notice this noise. stood there for 15 min never did it go away until i walked into my house. i recorded it on my cell and i can hear it in the recording. its kinda nice for awhile. if you enjoy meditation.

      November 3, 2013 at 03:10 | Report abuse |
  3. Paul Avetta

    I, have had this for a long time, but it was like cricket,s or loud locusts..Left ear popped all the time. DR, gave me nose spray, it went a way [short time] came back ear looked alright,she said.......Just had,cervical fusion in neck, 1 month ago, seeing the DR this coming Wednesday, The noise now is like a shrill, or high pitch radio waves dog whistle ETC

    September 23, 2012 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Paul Crown

    I also have the high pitch buzz tone in both ears, it comes and goes. I notice it when it starts but it fades away slowly and I do not notice when it goes. I have noticed that mine starts during the day when I am up ( usually working at my desk ) about 4 to 6 hours after I wake up. I have had neck alingment problems for years. I think this might be part of the issue. I use a tecknique that I got from a baby to put the natural curve back in my neck. when I go to bed I lay on my side and look up / tilt my head back and I try to fall asleep in this position. even if you don't stay like this all night you will wake up feeling great.
    I don't know if this is the answer but it has worked for me many times.

    October 6, 2012 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. marier

    In the case of my supposed tinnitis it is caused by those who wish to hurt me. They have speakers in their autos pointed to my home that increase the piercing sound. Through, I think compression, they use a computer to point the sound to the person they wish to receive the sound. Ask a physicist how this happens, It sounds bizarre investors are taking over our neighborhood, and they want my property. I had not had the problem until a family of gang members moved in. I have heard them speak about the procedure. The large speakers are in a car parked nearby This car stays outside across from my home all the time.

    November 13, 2012 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Doc

    Marier. Try wearing a tinfoil hat.

    December 29, 2012 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Doug

    I have been experiencing symptoms like the ones described above. Sometimes I hear a high pitched tone but most often I hear a hissing like sound. Ttinnitus is a possibility. I also am a hydrocephalus patient. I have a shunt with several revisions over the years. My last revision was 7 years ago. I have not had a symptom like this related to my hydrocephalus. I would appreciate any input from people that have had similar experiences.

    January 8, 2013 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ercillor

      Doug,
      Your 'Tinnitus' (by definition) may be keeping time with your heartbeat (pulse) . If so it is called 'Pulcatile Tinnitus' and must be looked at in order to rule out a serious heart valve condition known as 'Aortic Stenosis.'
      See a highly experienced physician - preferably a cardiologist - as soon as you can.
      Goodluck,
      ercillor

      May 21, 2014 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
  8. Space Time

    For some people, this pitch is related to your rise in vibration. As Earth enters higher frequencies, some people will be able to hear this higher pitch. Your body, ears and brain will begin to adjust. It will take some time for each person. Once you can flow with the higher frequencies, you become almost crystallized, you shift to the next octave. You may feel a pulsing within your brain, it too is responding to the higher frequencies entering your body. This is for those who have locked into the frequencies of the new Earth. You need to be aligned, in balance mentally, physically and spiritually or else you will create imbalance. Your entire being is transitioning, into something new and it will require adjusting. What you will become will be unique to each person. Flow with the inner knowing rather than freak and create more dis-ease. Again, this is for those who have locked in to the higher frequencies of the new Earth.

    January 23, 2013 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Kind Sirs

    I have tinnitus. I have deduced it is a cheap and effective way to food poison your life considering you have it you must be an intellectual that the government does not want you to speak your point of view about their conspiracy to control your life.

    Depending on how much poisons they gave to you while you ate your paid for food is how long your tinnitus will take. Exercise does not necessarily help pass the poison through your system because of where the poison resides is actually in the hairs of your inner ear. You will need to wait it out. You can seek medical help but they will only give you moderate attention if you have lots of money. In the end you will just have to wait like everyone else does. Hopefully it doesn't drive you mad enough to go smoke a few dozen of people in rememberance of the annoying sounds they make when you had to listen to them with that annoying ringing in your ear. You will feel right as RAIN if you pray to god for a firey ball from heavens hell gate to drop upon their souls for there malfunctions in helping you reliefe the substantial pain.

    February 26, 2013 at 00:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Liala

    The high pitch noise is the sound of electromagnetic frequencies emitted by electrical and wireless technology. Some humans can detect it. Drive out into the country away from hydro and cell phone towers and wind turbines. The noise stops. It's not in your head. It's from the environment.

    May 30, 2013 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      Your absolutely right on. Hate to say it but, it may be a frequency that will effect us in our future.

      May 16, 2014 at 19:59 | Report abuse |
  11. Roa

    What a lame advise doctor. Thanks for nothing.

    October 18, 2013 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. EMF Research

    The high pitch noise is the sound of electromagnetic frequencies emitted by electrical and wireless technology. Some humans can detect it. If you live by cell phone towers, satellite discs, have a modem, cell phone, these are contributers. If you ever read or heard on YouTube about strange sounds coming from in remote places that was people like the media (CNN), Radio personnel, and broadcasters testing out their new abilities cell phone towers give them to broadcast. They are able to broadcast around the world now, so load it can cause earthquakes.

    December 24, 2013 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. J Mack

    Do you have a electrical smart meter on your house? There's your answer. It radiates a high pitched intermittent frequency almost like morse code sound throughout the wiring of your home. You can hear it even with your hands over your ears.

    Google smart meter dangers. Everyone with one of these unsafe things should get their old analog meters put back on fast!

    January 10, 2014 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. pyom

    Wish there were more research done on Tinnitus.

    April 8, 2014 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Joe

    I have it too. Just had a rain storm here and it stopped. Started right back up after the rain storm ended. I think it's coming from the cell towers in my area. I live outside of NYC

    May 16, 2014 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. ercillor

    If the sounds are keeping time with your heartbeat it is something called 'Pulcatile Tinnitus' and it should be looked into. Sometimes pulcatile tinnitus is caused by a heart murmer, often the result of a heart valve problem known as 'Aortic Stenosis.' One should consult a good physician in order to rule this condition out - preferably a cardiologist.
    Good Luck,
    ercillor

    May 21, 2014 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Melba Rodriguez

    October22,2014. Today I have been experiencing noises in my head.

    October 22, 2014 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
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