What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the sound of ringing in the ears in the absence of audible noise. The sound may mimic noises, such as buzzing, ringing, clicking, hissing, clanging or wheezing. Tinnitus can have a gradual onset or occur abruptly. It is a common occurrence that can range in severity from being a nuisance to being a symptom of a medical emergency that should be evaluated immediately.

Tinnitus has no known direct cause, but it can be symptomatic of ear infections, foreign objects in the ear, allergies, high blood pressure, anemia, or a condition known as Meniere’s disease (swelling in part of the inner ear canal, causing dizziness and hearing loss). Alcohol, caffeine, and certain drugs are also contributing factors in some cases of tinnitus. Ninety percent of people with tinnitus have significant sensorineural hearing loss.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if the ringing in your ear begins after a head injury, or if it is accompanied by such symptoms as nausea with or without vomiting and dizziness or vertigo.

Seek prompt medical care if you have tinnitus that is persistent, recurrent, or causes you concern.


What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

Symptoms of tinnitus occur in the ears, mimicking the sounds of ringing, buzzing, clicking, hissing, clanging or wheezing. Tinnitus derives from the Latin verb “to ring”. The volume may be very low or high, and the sound may occur in one or both ears. You may barely be aware of your tinnitus, or it may distract you from your daily routines. Tinnitus results from the brain’s misinterpreting... Read more about tinnitussymptoms


What causes tinnitus?

The ear canal is lined with tiny hairs that sense movement and vibration conveyed to the brain as sound. Tinnitus occurs when these cells in your ear that respond to sound waves malfunction and transmit electrical impulses that your brain misinterprets as sound.

Tinnitus can be idiopathic, which means that it has no known cause. Alternatively, it may result from various causes, in... Read more about tinnituscauses


How is tinnitus treated?

There is no one identifiable treatment for tinnitus. However, you and your doctor can work toward identifying the underlying cause of your tinnitus. This may include assessing your medications to determine whether any are causing the symptoms, or diagnosing an underlying blood vessel disorder.

Medications for conditions causing tinnitus

Depending on the underlying cause... Read more about tinnitustreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Ear, Nose and Throat

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