Many people experience an occasional fluttering in the ear or other weird noises (roaring, hissing, whistling, or tinkling). However, the sound usually lasts only a few minutes.
When fluttering in the ear or buzzing does not improve or disappear, it’s called tinnitus.
You may hear a sound, such as a buzzer or a roar, that does not come from your surroundings (no one else can hear it but you). The sound may go in sync with your heartbeat, breathing, rhythmic, or come and go.
Tinnitus is more common in people over 40. Men have tinnitus problems more often than women.
What is tinnitus and why does it cause fluttering in ear?
Tinnitus, or ringing and fluttering in the ear, is the sensation of hearing buzzing, whistling, squealing, or other sounds. The noise can be intermittent or continuous and can vary in volume. For most people, this condition is simply an annoyance.
However, in severe cases, ringing in the ears can create difficulty concentrating and sleeping. Eventually, it can interfere with work and personal relationships, resulting in psychological distress, stress, or anxiety.
Although often associated with hearing loss, it is not directly related. In fact, some people with tinnitus don’t experience difficulty hearing.
Nevertheless, in some cases, they become so sensitive to sound (hyperacusis) that they must take steps to dampen or mask outside noise.
There are two main types of tinnitus
1- Pulsatile tinnitus
Like a heartbeat, it is often caused by sounds created by muscle movements near the ear, changes in the ear canal, or blood flow (vascular) problems in the face or neck. You may hear sounds like your own pulse or muscle contractions.
You can hear your own pulse continuously
This variant, pulsatile or rhythmic tinnitus, like regular tinnitus, is a continuous sound that only the sufferer can hear. But the sound is different from ringing or buzzing; it’s more like a rhythmic beat that follows your heart’s rhythm.
Again, pulsatile tinnitus is often caused by a specific health problem, such as irregular blood vessels, high blood pressure, anemia, atherosclerosis, head and neck tumors, and problems connecting arteries and veins. So if it occurs regularly, see your doctor.
2- Non-pulsating tinnitus
This variant is caused by problems in the nerves related to your hearing. You may hear sounds in one or both ears. Sometimes this type of tinnitus is described as coming from inside the head.
Whichever type of tinnitus you may have, it will always be associated, caused, and triggered by any of the following:
- Earwax accumulation
- Medications, especially antibiotics or large amounts of aspirin
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeinated beverages
- Ear infections or ruptured eardrums
- Dental problems or other problems affecting the mouth, such as temporomandibular (TM) problems
- Injuries, such as whiplash or a direct blow to the ear or head
- Inner ear injuries after surgery or radiation therapy to the head or neck
- A rapid change in environmental pressure (barotrauma)
- Severe weight loss due to malnutrition or excessive diet
- Repeated exercise with the neck in a hyperextended position, such as riding a bicycle
- Blood flow (vascular) problems, such as carotid atherosclerosis, arteriovenous (AV) abnormalities, and high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Nerve problems (neurological diseases), such as multiple sclerosis or migraines
- Acoustic neuroma
- Ménière’s disease (BPPV)
- Thyroid disease
Most types of tinnitus that come and do not require medical treatment. You may need to see your doctor if your tinnitus occurs with other symptoms, does not improve or disappears, or is only in one ear.
There may not be a cure for tinnitus, but your doctor can help you learn to live with the problem and make sure that a more serious problem is not the cause of your symptoms.
Why do these noises appear?
These actually come from the inner ear, the cochlea (a kind of snail shell).
Changes in the nerve activity of the cochlea can be caused by:
- Exposure to loud noises (hammers, chainsaws, loud music)
- A head injury or concussion
- Wax accumulation in the ears
- Allergies that close off the ear canals
- Too much caffeine
- Medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or blood pressure
- Meniere’s disease, related to fluids in the inner ear
- Hearing loss
- Emotional stress
- Withdrawal effect of drugs from the benzodiazepine group
Tinnitus can be one thing, or a combination of all of them, or even none at all. Each case is unique, although the most common cause is usually minimal hearing loss, especially age-related (presbycusis).
It’s a progressive loss in the ability to hear high frequencies, which occurs as people age.
One of the main symptoms is the problem in understanding speech, especially in background noise. It is estimated that the number of nerve cells in the middle ear may decrease between the ages of 30 or 40.
Although hearing loss will rarely start to be noticed before the age of 55, it should be noted that hearing loss is also not a sine qua non of aging (a person in his 80s may not have a hearing loss).
In some cases, tinnitus can have significant emotional effects. The constant noise in the ears takes its toll on many people. Not to mention, it isn’t pleasant and can cause them to have trouble sleeping or concentrating on work.
There may also be increased anxiety, as many people recognize, describing a connection between the perception of tinnitus and stress.
What’s wrong with my ears?
Tinnitus cannot be measured; it is not classified as a pathology but as a symptom, which means that it cannot be eliminated. It is neither a real noise nor can you access the area where it occurs.
To get an idea, it’s the sensation we experience in a transitory way when we are in silence after being exposed to a boisterous environment.
Our hearing system tends to filter out unimportant sounds, so many people can “switch off” and “get rid” of their tinnitus after a while. It may present itself in many different ways: it may manifest itself in only one ear, or both, occasionally, constantly, loudly or softly.
In an extensive survey of American adults with tinnitus, nearly one-third of them acknowledged that they constantly suffer symptoms. About the same number of people noticed tinnitus at bedtime.
This is because it has been shown in many cases that they tend to be more evident at night when there is less noise. Nor do all people suffer the same because tinnitus varies considerably in intensity and type. Some people describe it as constant rain.
Ringing and fluttering in ear: Summary
After going to a party or concert, do you ever feel like your ears are ringing or humming? Have you ever wondered why this happens?
So far, we’ve learned about what tinnitus is. However, did you know it can also cause permanent damage to the sound-sensitive cells inside the ear? Furthermore, it can affect one or both ears or cause hearing loss and pain. The damage can be permanent or temporary.
Carpenters, pilots, rock musicians, construction or street repair workers, and landscapers are among those whose jobs put them at risk for this condition. And so are people who work with chainsaws, guns, or other high-pitch noise devices.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
Your otolaryngologist will examine your ears and perform a hearing test to diagnose tinnitus. The doctor will compare your ability to hear with what other people your age and gender can hear.
Imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRIs, may be required to see if you have deformities or damage in your ears.
Living with ringing and fluttering in ear
While there is no exact cure, there are several recommendations for tinnitus that you can follow to help you cope with fluttering in the ear. For example, your doctor may treat any underlying medical condition that causes it.
He or she will also take steps to control and reduce stress, making it worse, although it does not cause it. Get a new hobby or go out with your friends and family to relax your body.
Likewise, protect your ears by wearing earplugs to avoid loud noise exposure. This way, you’ll decrease the severity of your problem.
To remove earwax, your doctor will use a microscope and a small tool. Remember not to remove it yourself. Trying to use a cotton swab to remove it actually tends to push it further into the ear canal, making your condition worse.
Seek immediate attention if:
- You have symptoms of tinnitus, which could be a sign of high blood pressure or an underactive thyroid (both treatable conditions)
- Noise is accompanied by ear pain. This may be a sign of infection in that area
- The noise is accompanied by dizziness. This may be a sign of a neurological problem
- Most of the time, the buzzing in the ear will not affect your daily life, but for any serious sign, visit your otolaryngologist as soon as you can
- Tinnitus (Latin for “noise”) in the ears are noises that can be heard even if there is no real noise outside
You can’t see or hear them (unless you are the person who is affected). Nor can they be quantified. In many cases, they don’t stop; they are always there, 24 hours a day.
The buzzing and fluttering in ear are noises that, without an external stimulus, the person perceives as if they were real. But no one else can hear them because they do not come from any external source.
But neither are they the fruit of your imagination. They don’t let you “hear” the silence.
It is estimated that between 10% and 15% of adults have suffered from tinnitus at some point in their lives. Of these, 8% may be related to sleep disturbance.
Although experts recognize that its prevalence is not known with precision, they admit that it is a frequent symptom in most of the population, especially in people between 40 and 70 years old.
As we have said before, it isn’t easy to eliminate and get rid of tinnitus. There is no cure or scientifically proven treatment or one that can reduce the sounds. But there are some strategies for coping with and reducing them.
According to the British Tinnitus Association, one of them is noise against noise, i.e., trying to dazzle the tinnitus with other noise.
In most cases, people who suffer from it tend to agree that it is much more annoying in quiet and silent environments, which is why experts have considered what they call sound therapy as a treatment option. It can help relieve tinnitus by listening to relaxing music or soft sounds like the sea.
Because 80% of the time tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss, another treatment used is hearing aids, which achieve two things: they allow the person to hear others more easily, and they also manage to mask tinnitus by “turning up” the volume on the other natural sounds in the environment.
The ear, one of the smallest and most complex structures in our organism, is subject to many “hazards” that must be identified in time to avoid major ailments.
Musicians experience less hearing impairment as they age
A study led by Canadian researchers has uncovered the first evidence that musicians experience fewer age-related hearing problems than non-musicians.
If you have any of these symptoms, it is not a bad idea to visit your family doctor, who will refer you to a specialist if he sees any major problem.
Hearing disorders, especially hearing loss, can increase slowly, without showing too many signs, so visiting the doctor is more than recommended.
You temporarily lose your hearing in one or both ears
Most likely, you are dealing with an acute noise-induced hearing loss or conductive hearing loss. It occurs when you’ve been exposed to loud noise over a long period of time, and its symptoms are those of hearing loss in one or both ears.
You’ll notice how the sounds perceived seem to be muffled, as if wearing earplugs.
Misophony is a disorder that implies a minimal tolerance to low intensity sounds
Other possible causes are excess earwax accumulating in the ears, having a foreign object lodged in the ear, or suffering from the previous injury to the inner, middle, or outer ear. This is temporary, don’t be alarmed, but it can lead to permanent hearing loss in the long term if suffered repeatedly.
You experience vertigo
Ménière’s disease is an inner ear disorder. It can cause severe dizziness or vertigo, fluttering in ear, hearing loss that comes and goes, and the feeling of pressure or pain in the ear.
Hearing problems are aggravated without us even noticing, so you must be vigilant
Vertigo it’s considered an associated chronic condition, and doctors don’t know the exact cause yet, although fluid buildup and problems with fluid drainage in the ear may contribute. In most cases, it usually affects only one ear and is a common cause of deafness.
Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing.
Age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults aged 20-69, with the greatest hearing loss in the 60 to 69 age group.
Men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss among adults aged 20-69.
Non-Hispanic white adults are more likely than adults in other racial/ethnic groups to have hearing loss; non-Hispanic black adults have the lowest hearing loss prevalence among adults aged 20-69.
About 18% of adults aged 20-69 have speech-frequency hearing loss in both ears from among those who report 5 or more years of exposure to thunderous noise at work than 5.5% of adults with speech-frequency hearing loss in both ears who report no occupational noise exposure.
One in eight people in the United States (13%, or 30 million) aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations.
Roughly 10% of the U.S. adult population, or about 25 million Americans, has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year.
Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).