Can Tinnitus Cause Migraines?

woman with tinnitus migraine

When the auditory pathway is blocked, initially, it may cause a significant amount of concern. Common indicators of tinnitus such as ear pressure, ringing and roaring noises can result in a significant effect on quality of life and prompt individuals to consult medical experts in order to find solutions for their hearing concerns or disorders. But did you know migraine headaches may also play a role in tinnitus symptoms? Surprisingly enough, both conditions contain similar accompanying signs; thus, there may actually exist some connection between them.

Before we determine whether the presence of migraine suggests the likelihood of developing tinnitus distress, let’s identify what a migraine is and isn’t, and different migraine triggers and symptoms.

What Is a Migraine ?

The American Migraine Foundation states that a migraine is not a typical headache – it’s a neurological disorder that can be difficult to identify and treat. Many individuals who suffer from migraines experience moderate to severe headaches in addition to other neurological symptoms.

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Migraine symptoms may include but are not limited to headache pain, nausea and/or vomiting, and sensitivity to light, noises, and/or smells. Headache disorders that include these symptoms can feel debilitating; migraine attacks can come out of left field, and can be the source of immense frustration and difficulty.

migraine aura

Some people experience “migraine aura,” which may include visual symptoms like flashing lights, blind spots, or blurred vision. Migraine aura tinnitus is similar, in that it precedes a migraine, but instead of seeing visual symptoms to signal an impending tension headache, cluster headache, or other form of headache that can accompany migraines, this type of tinnitus patient experiences chronic tinnitus as an indicator of an oncoming migraine.

Many individuals experience chronic pain related to migraine headaches, in addition to migraine pain. That chronic pain can present with other symptoms, such as depressive symptoms, cluster headaches, pain or immobility in the temporomandibular joint, fluid retention, neck stiffness, and more. All of these symptoms together can indicate a specific headache disorder, most commonly identified as migraine disorder.

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Are Migraines and Tinnitus Related?

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who have migraines are at risk for hearing and balance disorders–and, in particular, tinnitus. This study delved into the correlation between tinnitus and migraine pain by assessing tinnitus characteristics. It was discovered that persons with a history of at least one recurrent migraine episode are more predisposed to developing tinnitus than individuals who don’t experience migraines regularly. Although the actual relationship between the two conditions remains obscure, this indicates that they may be related in some capacity.

People who are prone to migraines often report balance disorders such as dizziness or vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus. Outside of the study that shows people with migraines may develop tinnitus, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that tinnitus patients may overlap with those seeking migraine treatment, whether the tinnitus comes with comorbid headaches, or the headaches were present before other symptoms (like those presenting with tinnitus characteristics) began to take place.

What Links a Migraine Headache and Tinnitus?

Researchers and clinicians are not certain why tinnitus and headache or a migraine episode may be linked. Some researchers think that it may be related to migraine-induced changes in blood flow capability or neural connections between the brain and the ears. This could explain the onset of tinnitus symptoms on the heels of a migraine or neurological headache, as some research has suggested that tinnitus has a basis in neurological symptoms, or symptoms involving a failure to communicate between the brain and the ears.

Many people with existing tinnitus find that the tinnitus severity becomes more noticeable or bothersome during migraine episodes. Whether tinnitus prevalence is truly linked to migraine patients or not, tension headaches, neck pain, and a migraine headache can all cause tinnitus patients to experience a sharp rise in the intensity or duration of their symptoms. Migraine treatment may, consequently, help ease some of the discomfort experienced by tinnitus patients and migraine patients, alike.

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Tinnitus and Headache Disorders: Meniere’s Disease

Comorbid headaches and tinnitus may be seen in people who have Meniere’s Disease, a vestibular disorder characterized by hearing and balance disturbances. Meniere’s Disease symptoms are not usually life-threatening or the source of a prolonged tension headache or cluster headache, people with the condition may experience decreased quality of life if they develop tinnitus on a chronic level, or experience regular episodes in Meniere’s Disease symptoms. Treatment for the vestibular migraine that is so common to this condition can help alleviate some ear discomfort, but the type of treatment utilized may vary for this specific condition, over other interventions typically used for tinnitus and headache outside of Meniere’s Disease.

Tinnitus and Headache Disorders: Vestibular Migraine

One specific headache disorder–a vestibular migraine–results in a variety of symptoms that affect a person’s auditory (hearing) and vestibular (balance) systems. This can include tinnitus symptoms and other symptoms related to the inner ear and balance, resulting in the onset of other neurological symptoms. Some people may experience otologic migraines, which can result in multiple ear-related symptoms, including tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus patients may experience this particular type of migraine headache specifically because a vestibular migraine involves the bodily components that can influence the onset of tinnitus more than other headache disorders, like regular tension headaches or simple migraines.

How Should Migraine-Related Tinnitus Be Managed?

There are migraine treatments (specific medications) that some people may find also help their tinnitus. First-line treatments may include beta blockers, angiotensin blockers, and tricyclics. Although these do not directly treat tinnitus, temporomandibular joint disorder complaints, or other symptoms linked to a neurological headache, migraine medications can lessen these symptoms by alleviating the main symptom of a migraine: intense pain in the head, jaw, and ears.

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Other treatment options such as cognitive behavioral therapy and sound therapy (often frontline treatments for tinnitus) are helpful for some individuals. A variety of other treatments (e.g., neuromodulation) are also available. The efficacy of these treatments will, of course, depend on the source of the headache. If the temporomandibular joint itself is compromised, for instance, relieving that issue first will be more effective in easing symptoms than a mental health intervention. If there is no identifiable reason for migraine, moderate to severe headaches, or other headache disorders, however, improved tinnitus symptoms may be achieved by simply addressing the headaches that precede them.

Linking Headaches and Tinnitus

A recent systematic review of the available evidence reported a strong link between migraines, hearing loss, and tinnitus. Although the exact mechanisms linking tinnitus and migraine headaches are not entirely known, further research in this area is necessary. Tinnitus treatment can help lessen symptoms associated with it whereas medications to combat migraines may address its root cause of distress for some people. To guarantee that you receive optimal relief from ringing in your ears, TMJ disorder, migraine headaches, pain syndromes or any other contributing factors related to tinnitus severity; be sure to consult with a doctor or an audiologist first.

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