We recently asked our MS community about tinnitus, also known as “ringing in the ears”. Although ear-related issues are less common than other MS symptoms, many of described how the sounds of tinnitus impact their lives. Our community members pointed out several triggers for tinnitus symptoms, including stress, fatigue, loud noises, sickness, and sudden noises. If you experience tinnitus, there are ways to manage this often-treatable symptom, and know that you are not the only person with that annoying ringing in your ears!
Here are several ways that tinnitus has been described:
“I have at least 3 or more sounds at the same time”
“Mine is a high-pitched ringing like a security system in a mall”
“Sounds like a pulse, throbbing noise!”
“Loud hissing & screeching”
Buzzing, squealing, ringing, hissing, and screeching. Although many people describe their tinnitus as a high-pitched whine, tinnitus affects different people in different ways. For some of our community members, a pulsing, throbbing sound is common (this is known as pulsatile tinnitus), while others experience crickets chirping, buzzing, and screeching. Tinnitus also occurs at different volumes and intensities. While some people report a mild ‘background noise’, others explain how tinnitus sounds are so loud that their hearing is affected. Recently, experts have linked hearing and other auditory problems to nerve damage from MS, so if you experience hearing changes, you may want to talk to a doctor.
Our community members also noted:
“It makes me feel like I’m gonna go crazy”
“Noise noise noise! Affects your sanity!”
Regardless of what your tinnitus sounds like, recurring noise, especially coming from inside your body, can be annoying. When describing tinnitus, many of you shared how these internal noises make you feel ‘crazy’, ‘frustrated’, or ‘irritated’. Just like a baby screaming or fire alarm blaring, the symptoms of tinnitus can be difficult to ignore. Although many of our community members shared how tinnitus can be stressful, many of you also talked about ways to manage or drown out the tinnitus sounds…
“I use a sound machine at night and keep my fans on”
“I always put the TV or radio on for background noise”
“A little ‘white noise’ helps”
“Get cleared by an ENT first, rule out any other issues, then try some vestibular exercises”
“My neurologist sent me to an otolaryngologist who was well versed in MS. She gave me good advice”
Especially for individuals affected by MS, it’s important to get enough sleep. Our community members shared a variety of sleep-related strategies for tinnitus, including background noise (such as a fan, TV, or radio), a white noise machine, or even going to an ENT or other medical provider for treatment. For many people, tinnitus symptoms can be treated by getting the ears flushed by a doctor, changing medications, or sometimes chiropractic adjustments. Although tinnitus symptoms can be frustrating, consider trying one of these strategies to manage your symptoms, and reach out to your MS community for other ways to feel better!
“My neurologist told me that MS rarely affects the hearing”
“My neuro doesn’t believe that tinnitus is a symptom of MS”
“I think [my tinnitus is] MS related, regardless of what my neurologist says”
When describing their tinnitus symptoms, many community members shared stories of doctors and neurologists saying, “That’s not related to MS”. Although hearing impairment is a less common symptom of MS, more recent evidence shows that MS can definitely impact your ears, including tinnitus, sensitivity to noise, difficulty hearing, problems with language/auditory comprehension, and vertigo. Overall, MS symptoms are different from person to person, and many of you have doctors who agree that MS can cause tinnitus. However, even if your doctor has doubts about the association between MS and hearing-related symptoms, know that you are not alone, and consider talking to an auditory specialist or ENT who focuses on MS patients.
“Thanks for mentioning this little-known symptom”
“I have had ringing in my ears for a long time”
“Not *that* rare!”
“I’m surprised it’s rare. I’ve had it ever since my first attack in ’69”
“Wondered about this for sooooo many years”
Although medical experts often consider tinnitus a “rare symptom of MS”, for many of you, there is nothing ‘rare’ about it! When we first posted about tinnitus, many were surprised to hear that other people with MS has this symptom. As we learn more about MS together, we hope you will continue to share your experiences about the lesser known impacts of this condition, and hope you can find ways to manage your symptoms that work best for you!