Many people with tinnitus also experience headache disorders, suggesting that one condition may trigger the start of the other.

First, your ears start ringing, then your head starts aching. If you’ve experienced tinnitus and a headache or migraine episode at the same time, you’re not alone.

Both headaches and tinnitus are very common conditions in the general population, and sometimes they occur at the same time. Since they often overlap, scientists think that they may be comorbid conditions, meaning one may cause the other.

Here’s what else to know about the link between the two conditions, as well as how to treat them.

Though experts can’t say for sure whether tinnitus can give you a headache or migraine attack, the research makes it appear likely.

Several studies show that headaches are much more common in people with tinnitus than in the general population. In a 2020 study, researchers found that about half of 286 people with tinnitus who were surveyed also had a comorbid headache disorder — most commonly, a tension headache (67%) or migraine disorder (30%).

Scientists believe that tinnitus and headaches could have a feedback loop of one causing the other — or that they could have a common cause.

About 40% of the population is estimated to have a headache disorder, and about 14% of adults have experienced tinnitus.

Based on the research, those who are most likely to experience headaches and tinnitus include:

Researchers noted that in those who experience tinnitus on just one side (unilateral tinnitus), the headache typically occurs in the same region of the head. For that reason, researchers think the connection is more than coincidental. Potentially, nerve inflammation may disrupt auditory processing and trigger painful vascular changes in both your inner ear and brain.

Overall, an estimated one in four people with headaches say they also experience tinnitus.

Tinnitus may also trigger migraine episodes. Migraine disorder is a type of headache disorder with additional symptoms like sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. An estimated 20% of people with migraine attacks say they also have tinnitus.

In the same 2020 study mentioned previously, about 45% of people with tinnitus also experience comorbid migraine attacks.

Tinnitus is considered a migraine “aura” (or a warning symptom that occurs about 5–60 minutes before the episode) in about 25–35% of people with tinnitus. The ear ringing may occur alone or alongside other migraine aura symptoms like:

  • visual disturbances
  • numbness and tingling
  • changes in smell or taste perception

While the conditions often occur concurrently, 2021 research suggests that those with frequent migraine headaches may also be more likely to develop chronic tinnitus than those without migraine symptoms.

Tinnitus and migraine symptoms are also linked to your trigeminal nerve, which runs from your ear to your eyes, nose, and jaw. Neck pain and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are also linked to both conditions.

Headaches and tinnitus share many of the same triggers, including:

The overlapping symptoms also point to a close relationship between auditory and pain pathways in your brain and nervous system. For that reason, treating one condition may help resolve the other.

Evidence-backed treatments for both tinnitus and headaches/migraine symptoms include:

Lifestyle strategies

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This therapy is often recommended to help manage underlying stress that affects tinnitus and a headache starting and their severity.
  • Relaxation techniques: Meditation, yoga, breathwork, massage, or biofeedback can also reduce stress.
  • Avoiding dietary triggers: Avoiding drinks like caffeine or alcohol may help prevent headaches or tinnitus.
  • Avoiding noise-based triggers: Avoiding noises like loud music, construction noise, etc., may prevent symptoms.
  • Sound therapy: This therapy may help mask tinnitus symptoms or soothe headaches.

Supplements

Medication

  • Antiseizure drugs: Medications like topiramate (Trokendi XR) and gabapentin (Gralise) are used to treat migraine attacks and may also help reduce tinnitus symptoms.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Medications like nortriptyline (Pamelor) and amitriptyline (Elavil) are used to treat chronic pain and prevent migraine symptoms and may also lend tinnitus relief.
  • Triptans: Medications like sumatriptan (Imitrex) can treat acute migraine episodes and may temporarily improve tinnitus symptoms.

Procedures

  • Botox injections: This procedure has been approved for chronic migraine treatment and is sometimes used off label to treat tinnitus.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): This procedure has shown some promise for treating migraine symptoms and tinnitus.

When to seek medical care

Since tinnitus is also linked to hearing loss, it is recommended to visit a doctor or healthcare professional as soon as possible for a thorough diagnosis.

Other reasons to get medical support include:

  • experiencing symptoms that are severe, hamper your daily life, or start suddenly
  • experiencing dizziness, vision changes, or other neurological issues like confusion
  • trying home remedies, strategies, or medication with no relief
Was this helpful?

There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that tinnitus and headaches are comorbid conditions, meaning one may cause or influence the other. Strategies like getting sufficient sleep, avoiding common triggers, and practicing therapeutic and relaxation techniques may help treat both conditions.

Supplements like magnesium and medication like antiseizure drugs may also help treat symptoms.