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Tinnitus & migraine

Tinnitus & migraine

Some of the most challenging aspects of migraine have nothing to do with headache. One of those annoying symptoms is tinnitus. All that buzzing and whooshing can make it difficult to concentrate. The key to treating it lies in its cause. However, tinnitus can manifest as a symptom of many headache disorders, complications, side effects of treatments, and even comorbid conditions. Ruling out all the scary stuff (or getting it diagnosed and treated) can take a long time.

During a migraine attack, my ears ring. They start ringing in the prodrome, up to 2 days before the headache begins and continue to ring until the postdrome is finished. When my ears stop ringing, I know an attack has ended. Fortunately for me, tinnitus is simply a symptom of migraine attack. That isn’t the case for everyone.

Tinnitus can take many forms. Sometimes it is a symptom of migraine and sometimes it is something else.

  • If you have been diagnosed with Migraine with Aura or Migraine with Brainstem Aura, tinnitus may be an auditory aura
  • If you experience vertigo and/or dizziness with tinnitus during a migraine attack, you might be experiencing Migraine Associated Vertigo
  • In rare cases, tinnitus accompanies Migrainous Infarction
  • Post-Trauma Headaches often include symptoms of tinnitus, vertigo, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Sometimes tinnitus can accompany photophobia, phonophobia, nausea, and vomiting as one of many associated symptoms during a migraine attack.
  • Some medications can cause tinnitus. Read the inserts carefully on antibiotics, cancer medications, antidepressants, NSAIDs, and diuretics.
  • Then there are other conditions with similar symptom profiles that can be mistaken for migraine. Tinnitus is also present with Idiopathic Intercranial Hyertension and Arnold-Chiari Malformation
  • Hearing loss should also be considered if tinnitus is persistent. A simple hearing test will confirm or rule this out. Exposure to loud noises can damage tiny sensory hair cells in the ear, triggering tinnitus, even if there is no hearing loss.
  • Tumors of the head and neck can also cause tinnitus.
  • Cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, arteriovenous malformation, etc. can cause you to hear the whooshing sound of blood pumping through the blood vessels of the head and neck
  • Meniere’s Disease presents with symptoms of tinnitus, vertigo, and transient hearing loss in one ear.
  • Patients with TMJ may experience tinnitus, too.
  • Sometimes tinnitus is caused by a buildup of earwax. A simple in-office procedure can quickly correct this problem.
  • Smoking increases the risk of developing tinnitus.
  • When all else has been ruled out, your doctor may tell you that you have Primary Tinnitus. That simply means that you have the symptom but no cause can be found.

As you can see, there are many reasons to discuss tinnitus with your doctor. Hopefully you’re one of the lucky ones for whom tinnitus is a transient symptoms such as aura or associated migraine symptom. Even so, your doctor will want to rule out other problems before passing it off as just one more crazy migraine symptom. Tinnitus can be very difficult to treat, so the sooner you get a diagnosis, the better your chances are of finding relief.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Minen, MD MPH, M. (2011). Tinnitus and Headache. Retrieved September 30, 2015, from http://www.achenet.org/resources/tinnitus_and_headache/
  2. Tinnitus. (2015). Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute, Retrieved September 30, 2015, from http://www.mhni.com/headache-pain-faq/unique-neurological-conditions/tinnitus
  3. Tinnitus. (2013, February 5). Mayo Clinic, Retrieved September 30, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/basics/definition/con-20021487
  4. Volcy, Michel MD, Sheftell, Fred D. MD, Tepper, Stewart J. MD, Rapoport, Alan M. MD and Bigal, Marcelo E. MD. Tinnitus in Migraine: An Allodynic Symptom Secondary to Abnormal Cortical Functioning? Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, Volume 45, Issue 8, pages 1083–1087, September 2005. Retrieved online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1526-4610.2005.05193_2.x/full

Comments

  • msmaryb1954
    5 months ago

    I have tinnitus almost constantly. The audiologist couldn’t find a cause, & had no suggestions for relief. I’ve noticed, however, a few hours after taking my migraine meds, the tinnitus disappears. It’s wonderful. When the meds dissipate the tinnitus comes back. I’m taking Relpax & Tylenol #4. Is anyone else experiencing something similar?

  • scsu96grad
    1 year ago

    My daily migraines & 24/7 tinnitus started simultaneously 14 months ago, along with a mild cough. I had been having headaches off & on the prior summer & fall for a week or two, then they would go away, but then come back. MRI was within 2 weeks, which showed nothing. I had just started high BP meds 5 months earlier. I ended up having a bronchoscopy the end of April 2017 to wash/remove a large build-up of mucous in my lungs that was causing that occasional cough for 3+ months. My PCP had tried changing the BP meds in Feb & March, but it only gave me severe bronchitis symptoms.
    Anyway, I started on Topamax 13 months ago at 25mg and gradually built up to 75mg. Then to 100mg by last summer. When I was still getting migraines late last summer, up to 100mg. When my new gerd medicine quit working in Aug cuz I made spaghetti again and I took ranitidine in addition for a week, which gave me headaches, it was bumped up again to 150mg. Late fall/early winter to 200mg. All this while nothing has been done with my 24/7 tinnitus. It was so bad that first month last year, it was probably causing half the headaches and migraines.
    Then 6 weeks ago, while being maxed at 200mg Topamax, we start the process of buying another house, which we won’t be fully moving into until probably the middle of this July, then doing repairs on current house & then listing it for sale. But over the last many years, I’ve dealt with increasing stress in my marriage and with my kids behaviors as they both have ADHD and no parenting help from their dad, my husband. So while the 200mg mostly had the migraines under control, they started up again daily with the stress of all the paperwork the mortgage lender & underwriter was requesting for this home purchase, while the latter was seemingly being a total pain in the a$$ with stuff he was requesting and demanding we do due to the Patriot Act.
    So here I am 3 weeks past closing,my husband stressing me out rushing me moving stuff to new house when he originally told me to take me time (I also had a bad fall on Jan 2nd that exasperated a 26yo disk herniation and newer S1 herniation limiting my mobility & strength & causing tingling in all 4 extremities now due to more impingement on nerve roots)..,then last night I had a severe bout of tinnitus where it was severely screaming loud!! I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up this morning where I actually told my husband what was up. I’m surprised I even fell asleep with that noise in my head, but only have 3.25 hours sleep the night before must’ve allowed me to just pass-out asleep. But all day today have just had a migraine that won’t go away where it feels like brain is just being squished/squeezed and then the constant tinnitus ringing.
    I’ve tried something off & on that was supposed to be taken 2x per day for the tinnitus that was supposed to help in a couple months, but obviously since I wasn’t consistent with it, no way in knowing if it did any good. I thought a few months ago the ringing had subsided in volume and/or frequency (not pitch); maybe it did….I’m just tired of this…
    About ready to stop all of my meds and vitamins cuz can’t even take a muscle relaxer that’s not supposed to make me sleepy and it makes me sleepy, or even take a fourth of a depression Med a night (5mg) for two days and it still makes me sleep til noon…seems like my medicines must be interacting with each other…I can’t even take my gerd medicine anytime around my potassium supplement (low K was caused by all stuff I went thru last year). I have to avoid other medicines cuz they give me vertigo, which I hate, so now I wonder tonight if this is Meniere’s Disease…
    Otherwise, if it’s all the stress in my life causing the migraines & headaches, It’ll be very hard to reduce all of that stress.

    Just tired of my neurologist saying there’s nothing to treat tinnitus. It’s a neurological issue. I had my hearing tested twice last year & compared to previous tests & there was no change, so I’m not losing my hearing. I’m about to look up any specialists that deal with this; tired of wasted days of unable to do anything.

    Any positive suggestions or coping strategies are appreciated. Thanks

  • GrassRootsMomma
    4 years ago

    Oh, thank you for posting this! I get that annoying ringing in my ears during the entire migraine attack, but just within the last two attacks actually paid attention to the fact that it coincides with the migraine. It’s there from prodrome to postdrome, and like you, I know the migraine is over when the ringing stops. I now need to start paying attention to when the ringing actually starts, so I can pay better attention for the start of the migraine. I don’t get other aura anymore (did when I was much younger), so have always paid attention for the neck/back of head pain and eye pressure that indicated an oncoming migraine.

  • tammay
    4 years ago

    Very informative. I do notice that I sometimes get a buzz in my ear (like when you turn to a TV station that has no programming) when I’m in a migraine attack but it usually only lasts for a minute or two. However, more recently, I’ve noticed that I have tinnitus when I have sinus issues (which usually does include a moderate headache). I actually have felt my hearing in one ear (usually the right, which is odd, since the sinus issues I have is usually on the left side – the same side that I usually have migraines) diminish considerably and then an echoing in my head like the voice of an old radio. Luckily, it usually lasts only about an hour and then goes away.

    Tam

  • Maureen
    4 years ago

    I always have some tinnitus as a background tinny, high-pitched noise. I rarely notice it except when there is not much other noise or when an attack is in progress. The funny thing is I never considered the whooshing sounds of migraine to be tinnitus. The pulsing of my heartbeat I consider part of the pounding of my head. And I guess I consider the ear filling whooshing the same thing. Interesting. Ah, tinnitus, who knew you were so complex?

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