by Elinor Hills
Medically Reviewed by:
Deena Kuruvilla, MD
by Elinor Hills
Medically Reviewed by:
Deena Kuruvilla, MD
Tinnitus is a lesser-known symptom of migraine. Here’s what the science says about the connection between migraine and tinnitus and how to manage this symptom when it occurs.
For many people, the experience of migraine goes beyond throbbing head pain. Many other symptoms can happen during a migraine episode.
Common symptoms include nausea, vision changes, and numbness, but there are less common symptoms as well. Some people experience ringing in their ears, known as tinnitus, during migraine episodes.
This article will examine the relationship between migraine and tinnitus and delve into remedies to manage and prevent this symptom.
Migraine is a complex neurological condition known for causing intense head pain. However, migraine attacks can also involve other symptoms, including tinnitus.
Tinnitus is characterized by the perception of sound in the ears when no external sound is present. This auditory sensation can range from mildly distracting to profoundly distressing. It’s often described as a ringing, whooshing, clicking, buzzing, or hissing sound.
Research suggests that people who live with migraine might be more prone to experiencing tinnitus even when they’re not having a migraine attack. They may also be at a higher risk of hearing loss.
While the exact cause of tinnitus during a migraine episode is still being investigated, the leading theory suggests that tinnitus may occur when your brain does not adapt to changes in sensory information. Unusual neural activity that happens in your brain during a migraine episode might affect your auditory pathways, leading to the perception of sound.
Migraine attacks involve the activation of specific nerve cells — peripheral and central trigemino-vascular neurons — in your face and head. When activated, these cells release neuropeptides and cytokines, which are proteins that can cause inflammation and make blood vessels expand.
This can lead to chronic inflammation in the meninges, the layers covering your brain.
Additionally, the trigeminal nerve, which can be activated during migraine attacks, is connected to your inner ear. This means that when these facial and head nerves become inflamed, they can affect the blood vessels in your inner ear.
These changes can help explain a range of vestibular migraine symptoms, including sudden hearing loss, ringing in your ears, a feeling of fullness in your ears, ear pain, dizziness, and vertigo.
Aside from tinnitus, a migraine episode might also cause symptoms such as:
It’s essential to recognize these accompanying symptoms, as they can aid in the diagnosis and provide a comprehensive understanding of your migraine pattern.
To diagnose tinnitus as a symptom of migraine, healthcare professionals typically take a detailed medical history, focusing on the onset of symptoms and any potential triggers. They might also perform an audiological exam to rule out any underlying ear problems.
Certain factors may be more closely linked to migraine episodes with tinnitus. Depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and higher stress levels may lead to a migraine attack with tinnitus.
While tinnitus stemming from a migraine episode often subsides when the episode ends, some people may benefit from medications or therapies. Healthcare professionals might prescribe pain relievers, triptans, or even antidepressants.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective in managing the symptoms of persistent tinnitus.
Migraine symptoms and migraine attacks can be difficult to prevent. Strategies to prevent tinnitus due to migraine are generally the same as those used to help prevent a migraine attack.
Keeping a journal of your migraine symptoms and what you were doing, eating, or experiencing in the hours and days before an attack can help you start to figure out whether any specific factors are triggering your attacks. Factors such as certain foods, alcohol consumption, and even weather changes can trigger a migraine episode.
If you’re having trouble getting to the bottom of your migraine triggers, you’re not alone. Identifying migraine triggers is challenging, and what triggers an episode one day may be totally different from what triggers one the next day.
Establishing a routine can be helpful as you try to manage your migraine episodes. Focusing on keeping your eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns consistent can help.
Some specific changes you can start to make include:
If you’re prone to tinnitus associated with migraine, it can be helpful to limit your exposure to loud noises, which may make your symptoms worse.
If you find that your tinnitus is worsening or lingering, it’s important to seek medical advice. Reach out to your doctor if you:
A healthcare professional can perform a comprehensive evaluation and guide you toward appropriate interventions that fit into your migraine treatment plan.
Medical professionals are still trying to figure out the exact connection between tinnitus and migraine. Studies on these brain-related conditions are continuing. For now, the best practice for managing tinnitus from migraine is to address and try to prevent migraine attacks.
Remember that while at-home remedies can provide relief, persistent or severe symptoms should prompt a visit to a healthcare professional.
Being proactive and informed and seeking timely care are the keys to effectively managing and preventing tinnitus associated with migraine.
Medically reviewed on September 01, 2023
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About the author
Elinor Hills has an MSc in Medical Anthropology and is passionate about the intersection of emotional well-being and physical health. Outside of work, she is an avid runner and enjoys yoga, photography, and drawing.