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Are Short Bursts of Ringing in Ears Related to Tinnitus?

Ringing in the ear is a classic sign of tinnitus, which is often thought of as a more long-term condition. But it can also occur in short bursts and be nothing more than a temporary annoyance that goes away fairly quickly. If you've experienced this before, it's often referred to as "sudden tinnitus" or, more officially, sudden, brief, unilateral, tapering tinnitus (SBUTT). 

It's not an indication of permanent tinnitus, nor does it means existing issues with tinnitus are getting worse. While not widely studied, new research sheds some light on sudden tinnitus and who may be more likely to experience it.

What Is Sudden Tinnitus?

Researchers from Israel, Canada, and the United States looked closely at sudden tinnitus or SBUTT. Sudden tinnitus is characterized by short bursts of ringing not even lasting for a full minute. Considered normal and common, it's a phenomenon with no apparent triggers that start just as suddenly as it ends. Once the brief ringing begins, related symptoms may include:

  • Sensations of ear fullness or pressure
  • Temporary hearing loss in the affected ear
  • Feeling like your ear is blocked

What if you already have tinnitus? In this case, the quality of your tinnitus or the nature of the symptoms usually experienced won't change.

The joint study was broken down into two groups. The first one consisted of some participants with tinnitus already, some who recalled having at least one instance of sudden tinnitus, and some who reported never having this experience. The second group is made up entirely of individuals reporting sudden tinnitus episodes. This group was also a mix of participants with and without existing tinnitus.

An Increased Chronic Tinnitus Risk

Researchers reported participants with the most occurrences of short bursts of tinnitus also already had chronic ear ringing. This suggests experiencing more SBUTTs may increase the risk of having chronic tinnitus. Chronic tinnitus refers to a recurring ear ringing, and similar internal ear sounds lasting longer than three months. It's also often paired with some degree of hearing loss.

A Somatosensory System Connection

The somatosensory system is a network of nerve-related connections responsible for sensations involving pressure, touch, pain, and temperature. The connection with sudden tinnitus comes from a finding that SBUTTs are more common in right-handed individuals. Approximately 90 percent of the population is right-handed. Because the somatosensory system is typically more dominant on the side people favor, this may explain why right-handed individuals appear to experience sudden tinnitus more often.

Call Us Today

If you only occasionally experience short bursts of ear ringing with no longer-term issues, there's likely nothing much to worry about with your hearing. If you have any concerns about what's happening with your hearing, speak with a hearing specialist. What we can do for you at Beltone Skoric Hearing Aid Center is discuss your options with hearing aids specifically for tinnitus and related hearing loss if you have existing issues with this condition.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist.