Migraine Symptoms: Tinnitus

Tinnitus, frequently described as a ringing, whooshing, roaring or hissing sound in the ear, is a symptom often associated with migraine disease.

Tinnitus is experienced by patients with migraine with aura and migraine without aura, but how many migraine patients are affected is not clear at this time.

We do know that among patients with basilar-type migraine, about 1/4 to 2/3 are affected by tinnitus. Basilar-type migraine is defined in the International Headache Society Classification (ICHD-II) as as subtype of migraine with aura characterized by attacks involving aura, such as tinnitus, vertigo, visual symptoms, etc., but no motor weakness.

Tinnitus also shows up for many migraine patients as a diagnosis of a condition called Meniere’s Disease. Meniere’s Disease is a disorder of the inner ear that involves tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, vomiting and progressive hearing loss. The frequency with which migraine patients experience Meniere’s Disease and the overlap of symptoms between the two suggests a connection between these conditions.

In cases where it is possible to identify and treat an underlying cause of tinnitus, this is the best approach. For many migraineurs, however, this may not be possible and the best remaining approach is to manage the condition. Management options include biofeedback, hypnosis, electrical stimulation, relaxation techniques, counseling and devices called tinnitus maskers.

If you’re dealing with persistent tinnitus, your first step should be to consult with a hearing specialist to pursue help and management options.

view references
1. Radtke, Andrea, MD; Lempert, Thomas, MD; Gresty, MA, PhD; Brookes, GB, FRCS; Bronstein, Adolfo M, MD, PhD; Neuhauser, Hannelore, MD, PhD. “Migraine and Ménière’s disease.” Neurology 2012;59:1700-174. doi: 10.1212/01.WNL.0000036903.224. Available at: http://www.neurology.org/content/59/11/1700. 2. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. “Tinnitus Management.” Accessed September 30, 2012. http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/treatment/tinnitus_manage.htm. 3. Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society. “The International Classification of Headache Disorders 2nd Edition.” Cephalalgia 2004;24:8-160. 4.
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