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The Migraine and Tinnitus Connection

Under: Akeso Health Sciences, General Health, Migraine

Tinnitus, or the perception of sound when no external sound is present, affects millions of people worldwide. In fact, estimates suggest that as many as 10 to 25% of all adults may have some form of tinnitus. In this guide we’ll explore what tinnitus is, its causes, types, effects, its connection to migraines, and effective treatment strategies to manage this condition.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is more than just an occasional ringing in the ears; it’s a persistent condition that can significantly impact daily life. It is characterized by sounds such as ringing, buzzing, or clicking, which can vary greatly in intensity and duration.

Tinnitus is often described as a phantom auditory perception, where the person hears sounds without any external acoustic source. This condition can be a temporary issue for some, a symptom of an underlying condition, or chronic problem that requires ongoing management.

Signs and Symptoms of Tinnitus

Tinnitus symptoms can vary greatly between individuals and can change over time. Some people experience constant symptoms, while others may have intermittent episodes. The intensity and type of sound can also vary, sometimes worsening at night or in quiet environments when there are fewer external sounds to mask the tinnitus.

Common Sounds

The most common symptom of tinnitus is hearing sounds that aren’t present in the environment. These sounds can vary from person to person and may include:

  • Ringing: A high-pitched, continuous sound, like the noise of a ringing bell.
  • Buzzing: A low, continuous hum or buzz.
  • Hissing: A sound similar to steam escaping from a pipe.
  • Clicking: Intermittent or rhythmic clicking sounds.
  • Roaring: A deep, echo-like noise.

Physical Sensations

In some cases, tinnitus can be accompanied by other physical sensations, such as:

  • Ear Fullness: A sensation of pressure or fullness in the ear.
  • Ear Pain: Occasional sharp or dull pain in the ear.
  • Vertigo: A spinning sensation that can occur with inner ear issues related to tinnitus.

Emotional and Psychological Effects

Tinnitus can also have significant emotional and psychological effects, including:

  • Anxiety and Depression: The persistent noise can lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, and sadness in some people.
  • Irritability: Constant tinnitus can make individuals more irritable and stressed.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Tinnitus can interfere with sleep, leading to insomnia or poor sleep quality.
  • Concentration Issues: The noise can make it difficult to focus on tasks, potentially affecting productivity and daily functioning.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Hearing Loss

Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is a common cause of tinnitus. As we age, the inner ear’s hair cells deteriorate, leading to hearing loss and sometimes, tinnitus.

Loud Noise Exposure

Exposure to loud noises can also damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear, resulting in tinnitus. This can occur from a single loud event or prolonged exposure to noisy environments. Factory and construction workers, call center employees, military personnel, and musicians have some of the highest reported incidences of tinnitus.

Ear Infections and Blockages

Ear infections, excessive earwax, or other blockages can cause tinnitus by affecting normal ear function.


Certain medications have ototoxic effects, meaning they can harm the ear and cause tinnitus. These include some antibiotics, diuretics, and chemotherapy drugs. In these cases, tinnitus usually resolves once the medication is discontinued.

Other Health Conditions

Some health conditions, such as cardiovascular issues, TMJ disorders, head and neck injuries, and certain tumors, can also lead to tinnitus.

Types of Tinnitus

Tinnitus can be categorized into a few different types, including:

Subjective Tinnitus

This is the most common type, where only the individual can hear the noise. It’s often linked to problems in the auditory pathways or the brain’s interpretation of nerve signals as sound.

Objective Tinnitus

A rarer form, objective tinnitus can be heard by both the affected individual and a doctor during an examination. It typically results from vascular issues or muscular contractions in the ear.

Pulsatile Tinnitus

Pulsatile tinnitus is characterized by rhythmic pulsing, often in sync with the individual’s heartbeat. This type is usually linked to changes in blood flow or increased awareness of blood flow near the ears.

What Are the Effects of Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can have wide-ranging effects on a person’s life, impacting both mental and physical health.

Psychological Impact

Tinnitus can significantly impact mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, irritability, and insomnia. The constant noise can make it difficult to concentrate, relax, or enjoy silence.

Cognitive Effects

Persistent tinnitus can affect cognitive functions, causing difficulties with memory, attention, and problem-solving. The brain’s efforts to manage the persistent noise can be mentally exhausting.

Quality of Life

Severe tinnitus can interfere with daily activities, work, and social interactions. The constant presence of sound can make it challenging to engage in conversations or enjoy hobbies, leading to social isolation and reduced quality of life.

severe tinnitus

Severe cases of tinnitus can lead to social isolation

The Tinnitus-Migraine Connection

The relationship between tinnitus and migraines is complex, and it seems to be a significant one. Both conditions share similar neurological pathways and can be triggered by common factors such as stress, diet, and environmental changes.

Neurological Links

Migraines and tinnitus are believed to share similar neurological pathways. Both involve abnormal nerve activity and heightened sensitivity in the brain. This overlap means that managing one condition can often help alleviate the other.

Shared Triggers

Common triggers for both migraines and tinnitus include stress, certain foods (such as caffeine and alcohol), and changes in sleep patterns. Identifying and avoiding these triggers may help manage both conditions more effectively.


Studies have shown that individuals with headaches are more likely to experience tinnitus. The presence of one condition can exacerbate the other, creating a vicious cycle of discomfort and distress.

Treating Tinnitus

Treatment of tinnitus involves a combination of medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and dietary supplements. Here are some approaches that may help manage tinnitus:

Medical Treatments

  • Hearing Aids: For those with tinnitus associated with hearing loss, hearing aids can be beneficial. By amplifying external sounds, hearing aids can make tinnitus less noticeable while also improving hearing.
  • Sound Therapy: Sound therapy involves using external noises to mask tinnitus. This can include white noise machines, specialized ear devices, or even smartphone apps. The goal is to distract the brain from tinnitus, making it less intrusive.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps individuals manage tinnitus by changing their response to it. Techniques focus on reducing stress and anxiety associated with tinnitus, improving coping strategies, and altering negative thought patterns.
  • Medications: While there isn’t a specific medication for tinnitus, some drugs can help manage its symptoms. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may reduce the distress caused by tinnitus, although they don’t cure the condition.


  • Zinc: Some studies suggest that zinc supplements can improve tinnitus symptoms, particularly in individuals with a zinc deficiency. Zinc is vital for immune function and cell growth, and a deficiency may affect hearing health.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba is a popular herbal supplement believed to improve blood flow to the inner ear and brain, potentially reducing tinnitus symptoms.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium plays a crucial role in nerve function and blood flow. Magnesium supplements may help reduce the severity of tinnitus, especially if the individual has a magnesium deficiency.

Lifestyle Changes


Incorporate yoga to manage stress

  • Avoiding Loud Noises: Protecting your ears from loud environments is vital. Using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones can prevent further damage to your hearing and reduce tinnitus severity.
  • Managing Stress: Stress can exacerbate tinnitus symptoms. Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and regular exercise can help manage stress and improve your overall wellbeing.
  • Healthy Diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins supports health, including auditory health. Limiting caffeine and alcohol, which can worsen tinnitus, may also be beneficial.
In Closing

Tinnitus is a common yet complex condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Understanding its causes, types, and effects can help you manage and alleviate symptoms. While there is no cure for tinnitus, various treatments and lifestyle changes can significantly improve the quality of life for folks who struggle with this condition.