Ringing in the Ears and Headaches – A Complete Diagnosis

Girl in a yellow t-shirt having a headache

Some of the most confusing symptoms that many people experience are ringing in the ears and headaches. Headaches, such as migraines, can be pretty bad as is. Experiencing ringing in the ears along with a headache only makes the situation much worse and torturous. If you experience both these conditions, you may be diagnosed with Vestibular Migraine and Tinnitus.

Remember, it is important to get to the root of the problem and find the right treatment before your condition gets any worse.  Here are two most common diagnoses of ringing in the ears and headaches. 

Diagnosis of Ringing in the Ears and Headaches

Vestibular Migraine

Vestibular migraine, also known as migrainous vertigo, is a type of migraine that entails various symptoms that affect your ears, vision and balance. However, this type of migraine might or might not cause a headache. It largely depends on the person experiencing it. Moreover, vestibular migraine is the second common cause of vertigo.

Symptoms of Vestibular Migraine

Firstly, vestibular migraine entails symptoms of vertigo, such as imbalance and dizziness. Some people suffering from vestibular migraine may also find it hard to move their head, such as turning it or bending it down. Tinnitus, which can be described as ringing in the ears, is another common symptom of vestibular migraine. Many people also find it hard to hear low sounds and experience visual disturbances such as blurred vision, or even loss of vision.

Causes of Vestibular Migraine

The causes of vestibular migraine are rather unknown. However, a focal assumption is that abnormal ‘electric’ messages cause vestibular migraine. These messages lead to the widening of the blood vessels around the brain, including the vestibular artery, thus causing a ringing sound in your ear and headaches amongst other symptoms.

How to Make a Diagnosis

If you are experiencing ringing sounds in your ears and headaches, you should visit a General Physician and explain your problem to them. Your GP will then help make a diagnosis of your condition based on certain factors such as medical history, the occurrence of symptoms and an overall medical examination.

How to Treat Vestibular Migraine

You might have vestibular migraine if you experience ringing in the ears and headaches too often. However, you don’t have to worry much as it can be treated.

Many doctors prescribe preventative medications to relieve your symptoms if they are regular, severe and naturally interfering with your life. Moreover, you have to make some serious lifestyle changes to get rid of the triggers of the symptoms. For instance, you have to reduce alcohol consumption, get enough sleep and take less stress.

You will have to take the prescribed preventative medications every day whether or not you feel unwell. Moreover, your GP may also provide migraine episode treatments if you experience ringing in the ears and headaches. This treatment includes pain relief and anti-nausea medication.

Vestibular rehabilitation and physiotherapy are also pretty effective when it comes to combating the symptoms of a vestibular migraine. Some of these symptoms include dizziness due to movement or imbalance. 

Living with Vestibular Migraine

Almost all patients suffering from vestibular migraine have to adopt a healthy life and take medication regularly. This is the only way they will be able to have a good recovery process and resume their day-to-day activities. Some integral changes that vestibular migraine patients have to make include exercising regularly, avoiding triggering foods, such as caffeine and alcohol, remaining hydrated, and getting enough sleep.

Tinnitus – Ringing in the Ears

If you experience ringing in your ears and headaches, you may be diagnosed with tinnitus. Ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus, typically accompanies multiple headache disorders. Patients with tinnitus and general headaches often share similar complaints. However, you don’t have to worry because there are various treatment options available for it.

What is Tinnitus?

You might lack acquaintance with this word. Tinnitus is a chronic ear illness in which a person hears weird sounds without there being any external noise. At least 10-15% of the world population suffers from tinnitus. Other symptoms such as headaches often accompany tinnitus. On the other hand, tinnitus also accompanies headaches.

Headache Disorders with Tinnitus

Now you are aware that ringing in your ears and headaches go hand in hand. There are different kinds of headache disorders where one experiences tinnitus as well.

Migraine Disorder

Migraine is a primary headache type that is associated with tinnitus. In this disorder, not only do you feel like your head is exploding, but you also constantly hear various sounds. Many patients suffering from tinnitus report that it worsens consistently during migraine attacks. Moreover, migraine patients with cutaneous allodynia tend to have it worse. This is because their allodynia tends to occur at the same time as tinnitus.

Migrainous Infarction

Tinnitus can also be rarely seen in migrainous infarction. This situation entails a patient suffering from a migraine while their Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) reveals a corresponding stroke.

Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH)

The idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) is another type of headache in which you experience ringing in your ears and headaches. It is pretty difficult to distinguish the symptoms of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) from a normal migraine headache. However, the IIH diagnosis can be made if you experience pulsatile tinnitus.

Post Concussive Headache

A post concussive headache is another type of headache in which you may experience ringing in your ears.

The Relationship between Migraine and Tinnitus

The laterality and severity of ringing ears and headache seem to correlate. A few researches attempt to find the link between headaches and tinnitus. A research was conducted on 200 participants to find the link between the two. This research found a major link between the laterality of headaches and tinnitus. For instance, a person experiencing tinnitus in the right ear was also experiencing head pain on the right side. The same goes for those experiencing tinnitus in the left ear.

Moreover, the severity of ringing in your ears and a headache coincide as well. Almost half of the participants in the research contested to the severity of their symptoms. For instance, their tinnitus got worse as their headache became more severe, and vice versa.

The central sensitization is another way to explain the link between tinnitus and headache. Central sensitization occurs when both your brain and your spinal cord develop a relatively high sensitivity to things that hurt, like a needle prick, and things that shouldn’t hurt, like a regular touch shouldn’t.

Causes of the Co-occurrence of Headache and Tinnitus

Many people wonder why tinnitus and headaches occur at the same time. Very little research has been done to find out the actual explanation. One possible explanation recommends that spontaneous and abnormal neural activity cause the co-occurrence. It is also suggested that ringing in the ears and headaches may be an allodynic symptom. However, more research is required in this area to reach a proper and defined conclusion.

Other Symptoms That May accompany Ringing in the Ears and Headaches

Those with headache disorders and tinnitus often have the same common complaints. These complaints pertain to anxiety, depression, sleep concerns, and increasing stress levels. Moreover, ringing in the ears and headaches lead to severe cognitive issues. 

Treatment for Tinnitus

There are various treatments for tinnitus. These treatments include both non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic treatments. Certain patients can reap advantages from lifestyle improvements, such as sticking to low salt diets and refraining from caffeine and alcohol consumption.

Moreover, machines with white noise can also impact the quality of life of those with tinnitus. Many people opt for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Habituation Retraining Therapy (HRT) as part of their non-pharmacologic treatment. Additionally, other forms of medications, such as long-acting benzodiazepines, can also reduce the intensity of tinnitus.

Conclusion

Vestibular migraine and tinnitus are two of the most prominent diagnoses of ringing in the ears and headaches. However, if you are experiencing it too much, you may also have some other underlying medical condition. For this purpose, you should visit a proper doctor and explain all your symptoms. The doctors will conduct a few tests and figure out a proper diagnosis so that you can receive the right treatment.

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