The Surprising Way High Blood Pressure Can Affect Your Hearing

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Picture this: Your favorite song comes on and you turn the volume all the way up on your AirPods. When the song is over, you hear ringing in your ears. This is actually a pretty common experience called tinnitus, which goes away quickly and on its own. But tinnitus that's consistent can be from an underlying health condition—including high blood pressure.

High blood pressure (aka, hypertension) is a chronic condition where the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries is too high. This makes your heart work harder to pump blood, per the Mayo Clinic.

Nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it's often referred to as the “silent killer” because it can go undetected, due to symptoms that seem mild or unrelated.

Experts In This Article

Here, a family medicine doctor and audiologist explain why exactly high blood pressure causes ringing in ears, other tinnitus causes, and how to help quiet that internal high-pitched noise.

Can high blood pressure cause ringing in your ears?

In short, yes. High blood pressure can cause sounds in one or both ears that can't be heard externally, also known as tinnitus, says Jesus Lizarzaburu, MD, a board-certified family medicine doctor at TPMG in Yorktown, Virginia. “It sounds like a very high-pitched sound. Some describe it like sitting right next to an old tube TV or monitor,” he adds.

High blood pressure can cause a specific type of tinnitus called pulsatile tinnitus, adds Dr. Lizarzaburu. “It's a type where you hear a rhythmical noise, often in time with your heartbeat, and it can be caused by blood vessel problems like high blood pressure.”

Why does this happen? Well, when your blood pressure gets high, the blood flow through your arteries becomes more forceful. This increased pressure can cause a variety of noises in the blood vessels close to your ear, leading to the ringing or buzzing sounds associated with tinnitus, he explains.

Hypertension can also lead to hearing issues if it affects the blood supply to your auditory system, says Dr. Lizarzaburu. “The cochlea, which is the hearing organ in the inner ear, requires a rich blood supply to function properly.” This can cause irritating sounds, too.

While tinnitus is common, not everyone with the condition has hypertension. And vice versa: Not everyone with hypertension will develop tinnitus.

If you have tinnitus along with any of the following symptoms of very high blood pressure, you should seek medical care immediately (in other words, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room), according to the World Health Organization:

  • Chest pain
  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vision changes
  • Anxiety
  • Disorientation

“Tinnitus sounds like a very high-pitched sound. Some describe it like sitting right next to an old tube TV or monitor."—Jesus Lizarzaburu, MD, family medicine doctor

Other causes of ringing in the ears

Ringing in the ears isn’t exclusively due to high blood pressure. In fact, "high blood pressure is a rarer cause for tinnitus," says Tricia Scaglione, AuD, a clinical audiologist and tinnitus expert. The most common cause for tinnitus is exposure to loud noise, like when you have your headphones too loud or you're listening to loud music.

“If you've ever been to a loud concert or sporting event, and then left with a buzzing or ringing noise in your ear (that wasn't present before), it's a form of tinnitus. But this kind is temporary and usually goes away within 72 hours,” she says.

Other causes of tinnitus include the following, per Scaglione:

  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Earwax buildup
  • Ear infection
  • Allergies
  • TMJ disorders
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Certain medications, including antibiotics, NSAIDs, and antidepressants
  • Stress
  • Migraines
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Hypothyroidism

How to treat blood pressure-related ringing in the ears

Currently there is no cure for tinnitus, but there are ways to at least manage ringing in your ears from high blood pressure, says Dr. Lizarzaburu. He recommends regular monitoring of your symptoms (including what triggers or worsens them) and certain lifestyle changes to keep your blood pressure in check. This may include:

If lifestyle changes aren't enough, your doctor may prescribe medication to help lower your blood pressure.“There are many different types of blood pressure medications, and the right one will depend on the individual's specific circumstances,” he adds.

Checking your blood pressure at home regularly is another great way to manage high blood pressure, along with keeping routine checkups with your doctor.

“It's also worth noting that while treating the underlying high blood pressure can help, it may not eliminate the tinnitus altogether,” says Dr. Lizarzaburu. In that case, he recommends other treatments for tinnitus, including:

  • Sound therapy: This involves listening to neutral sounds to distract from the sound of tinnitus
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A type of therapy that helps people learn to cope with tinnitus by changing the way they think about it
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT): This involves retraining the brain to reduce the perception of the ringing or buzzing sound
  • Hearing aids: A great management option for people who have hearing loss and tinnitus

Preventing ringing in the ears from high blood pressure

Prevention and treatment for blood pressure-related tinnitus are very similar. A lot of the strategies come down to controlling the "controllables"—like what we eat, drink, and the healthy habits we have. Dr. Lizarzaburu and Scaglione suggest these preventive measures for managing tinnitus with high blood pressure:

Maintain a healthy diet and weight

“A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy can help manage blood pressure,” says Dr. Lizarzaburu. “Avoiding foods high in sodium and saturated fats is also important.”

Apart from a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight for your body is also important for reducing high blood pressure risk. In fact, having overweight accounts for 65 to 78 percent of hypertension cases, according to a February 2020 review in Gland Surgery. Talk to your doctor about whether you're in a healthy weight range.

Get regular exercise

Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can help improve your heart health, your mood, and your muscle mass. But it may also prevent high blood pressure, too.

"About 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week can lower your blood pressure and improve your overall cardiovascular health," says Dr. Lizarzaburu.

In general, adults should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. This could include aerobic activities like walking, biking, or swimming. The guidelines also suggest doing strengthening exercises at least two days a week, like lifting weights or Pilates. It's best to find an exercise you enjoy and stick with it.

Limit alcohol and caffeine

Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure and negatively interact with blood pressure medications, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. Similarly, drinking coffee, tea, energy drinks, or soda can increase blood pressure, too, if you’re sensitive to caffeine.

“Both alcohol and caffeine can raise your blood pressure and potentially worsen tinnitus,” says Dr. Lizarzaburu. This means, reducing the amount you drink per day or week can help you maintain a healthy blood pressure and may ease the ringing in your ears.

Quit smoking

Smoking can raise your blood pressure and damage your blood vessels, therefore increasing your risk of tinnitus, says Scaglione. In fact, the nicotine in tobacco products can increase your blood pressure by as much as 10 points for up to an hour after you smoke, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. Even inhaling secondhand smoke on a regular basis can contribute to high blood pressure, per the Cleveland Clinic.

For this reason (and many more), it's best to quit smoking. If you're having a hard time quitting, reach out to your doctor, who can suggest online or in-person smoking cessation programs and resources.

Limit salt in your diet

A low-sodium diet helps lower blood pressure, which in turn, could help prevent tinnitus. Dr. Lizarzaburu suggests trying to limit your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Swapping out ultra-processed and packaged foods for more whole, fresh foods can help decrease overall sodium intake, too. When you purchase packaged foods in the store, compare nutrition labels and opt for the choice with lower sodium.

And if you're going out to eat, look for any meals marked as "heart-healthy" or "low salt" on the menu, or ask if food can come with less salt.

Manage stress

“Stress is definitely a common trigger for tinnitus,” says Scaglione. Chronic stress can especially contribute to high blood pressure, leading to longer-term tinnitus. This is why stress-management strategies are important.

"Things like mindfulness, working out, yoga, and guided breathing or meditation are all great practices for an individual if they're under stress and/or are dealing with tinnitus," adds Scaglione.

Avoid loud noises

Because the most common cause for tinnitus is loud noises, limiting your exposure to them can prevent that high-pitched ringing in your ears from happening. “Exposure to loud noises can cause temporary or permanent tinnitus,” says Scaglione. And if you can't avoid them altogether? “Using ear protection in noisy environments, like earplugs, can help prevent this.”

When to see a doctor

Tinnitus can be a symptom of many underlying conditions, so it’s best to talk to your doctor if the ringing in your ears is continuous and persists for more than a week, says Dr. Lizarzaburu. You should also see a doctor if the sound disrupts your quality of life or causes sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, or emotional distress.

Other signs it’s time to seek help include the following, per Dr. Lizarzaburu:

  • You have ringing in one ear only with no other unusual symptoms like dizziness or balance problems
  • The ringing starts suddenly without any apparent cause
  • The tinnitus is accompanied by other symptoms like hearing loss, dizziness, balance problems, or unexplained ear pain
  • The tinnitus occurs with sudden hearing loss, particularly if it's only affecting one ear

Before any emergency situations arise, Scaglione suggests seeing an audiologist as part of your annual health-care routine. “Having a healthy hearing checkup, or at least a baseline of hearing, is really important,” she says. “If somebody hears any kind of sound in their ears that's lasting longer than five minutes, regardless if it's bothersome or not, they should have it checked out.”

And if you have any symptoms of high blood pressure, let your doctor know. They can take a blood pressure reading and discuss treatment options if needed.


What does tinnitus from high blood pressure sound like?

Not all cases of tinnitus sound the same; they can range in sound and pitch. “It's commonly reported as a ringing, buzzing, or humming,” says Scaglione. “But it can be chirping, or even musical, believe it or not.” When there’s an underlying vascular issue, tinnitus might sound like a pulse or a beat that's more consistent with your heart rate.

Does ringing in the ears ever mean low blood pressure?

It’s possible that any change in blood pressure could have an effect on hearing, says Scaglione. But in most cases, tinnitus is a symptom of high blood pressure.

Why is my ear ringing all of a sudden?

Sudden ringing in your ears could be situational. If you’ve just left a loud environment, like a sporting event or concert, the ringing in your ears is temporary and should go away within 72 hours, says Scaglione. If it doesn’t go away, it’s likely a form of tinnitus that’s caused by an underlying condition and you should see a doctor.

—reviewed by Jennifer Logan, MD, MPH

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Shariq, Omair A., & Travis J. McKenzie. “Obesity-related hypertension: a review of pathophysiology, management, and the role of metabolic surgery.” Gland Surgery [Online], 9.1 (2020): 80-93. Web. 20 Feb. 2024

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