Tinnitus
(Ringing in the Ears and Other Ear Noise)

Tinnitus Summary
Tinnitus is a ringing or swishing that seems to originate in the ear or head. Most of the time it is not a serious problem (it is however, a nuisance to those that suffer from the condition). Causes of tinnitus include loud noise exposure (firearms, loud music), medications, and other diseases (Meniere's disease). Treatment options are limited for tinnitus. Tinnitus can be prevented by wearing hearing protection when exposed to loud noises.
Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Tinnitus facts

  • Tinnitus is abnormal ear noise.
  • Tinnitus can arise in any of the four sections of the ear: the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, and the brain.
  • Persisting unexplained tinnitus is evaluated with a hearing test (audiogram).
  • Measures can be taken to lessen the intensity of tinnitus.

What is, and what are the symptoms of tinnitus?

Comment on this

Tinnitus is a ringing, swishing, or other type of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head. In many cases it is not a serious problem, but rather a nuisance that eventually resolves. Rarely, however, tinnitus can represent a serious health condition.

It is not a single disease, but a symptom of an underlying condition. Nearly 36 million Americans suffer from this disorder. In almost all cases, only the patient can hear the noise.

What causes tinnitus?

Comment on this

Tinnitus can arise in any of the following areas: the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, or by abnormalities in the brain. Some tinnitus or head noise is normal. If one goes into a sound proof booth and normal outside noise is diminished, one becomes aware of these normal sounds. We are usually not aware of these normal body sounds, because outside noise masks them. Anything, such as ear wax or a foreign body in the external ear, that blocks these background sounds will cause us to be more aware of our own head sounds. Fluid, infection, or disease of the middle ear bones or ear drum (tympanic membrane) can also cause tinnitus.

One of the most common causes of tinnitus is damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear. Advancing age is generally accompanied by a certain amount of hearing nerve impairment, and consequently chronic tinnitus.

Today, loud noise exposure is a very common cause of tinnitus, and it often damages hearing as well. Unfortunately, many people are unconcerned about the harmful effects of excessively loud noise, firearms, and high intensity music.

Some medications (for example, aspirin) and other diseases of the inner ear (Meniere's syndrome) can cause tinnitus. Tinnitus can in very rare situations be a symptom of such serious problems as a brain aneurysm or a brain tumor (acoustic tumor).

Picture of the Ear Anatomy
Picture of the Ear Anatomy

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/21/2013

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Tinnitus - Effective Treatments Question: What kinds of treatments have been effective for your tinnitus?
Tinnitus - Causes Question: What caused your tinnitus?
Tinnitus - Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms of your tinnitus?
Tinnitus - Relief Remedies Question: Please share home remedies for relieving tinnitus.
Tinnitus - Prevention Question: What prevention measures do you use to avoid getting a tinnitus?