A sudden ringing in the ears, also referred to as tinnitus, is a symptom of a problem in the ear or the brain. Approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of the population experiences some type of ringing in the ears, according to the Merck Manuals. Although there is no cure for all causes of tinnitus, treatments can help manage the condition.
A sudden onset of tinnitus can also sound like ringing or a variety of other sounds, such as hissing, whistling, buzzing and roaring. The individual can hear a high-pitched noise or a low roaring sound. If the tinnitus is because of a rare blood vessel disorder, the physician can also hear the noise, according to MayoClinic.com. The noise may come and go or may become chronic. The ringing in the ear may affect one or both ears.
A ringing in the ear occurs for various reasons, including damage to the tiny hairs in the outer ear and hearing loss. Loud noises and an infection in the ear can also cause sudden ringing of the ears. Meniere's disease causes ringing because of an abnormality of fluid pressure in the inner ear. Medication such as high doses of aspirin can cause ringing in the ear. More than 200 different medications can cause the condition to occur, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Hearing tests to determine the degree of hearing loss can help determine if the hearing loss is causing the tinnitus. Completing a complete exam and a medical history may help the physician pinpoint a cause of the condition.
About 20 percent of individuals who experience tinnitus are bothered enough to seek treatment for the condition, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. For chronic tinnitus, hearing aids, cochlear implants and counseling may help improve the ringing sound and make the tinnitus tolerable, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The hearing assistants can help improve hearing, thereby reducing the ringing while counseling can help a person relax and not focus on the noise. Temporary tinnitus may resolve after relieving the cause, such as an inner ear infection or a brain tumor.
The main complication associated with a ringing in the ear is an effect on the affected individual's quality of life. In addition to tinnitus, a person may experience symptoms of stress, fatigue, memory issues, depression, insomnia and anxiety, according to MayoClinic.com.