Ringing in the Ears

(Tinnitus)

Definition

Tinnitus is the perception of abnormal ear or head noises without any external sound. Noises may be high pitched, ringing, clicking, or buzzing. Pulsatile tinnitus is caused by the flow of blood that accompanies each heartbeat.
Anatomy of the Ear
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Causes

Tinnitus may be caused by:
  • Cochlear damage from exposure to loud sounds
  • Hearing loss
  • Damage to the auditory system, including the ear drum and nerves
Occasional episodes of tinnitus lasting at most a few minutes are quite common in normal people, especially after exposure to loud noises.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of tinnitus may include:
  • Occupations or activities that expose you to loud noises
  • Wax or a foreign body in the ear canal
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Certain medications, such as aspirin, antibiotics, or diuretics
  • Toxins, such as heavy metals, carbon monoxide, or alcohol
  • Certain health conditions, such as:
  • Blood vessel disorders, such as an aneurysm, fistula, or hardening of the arteries are associated with pulsatile tinnitus
  • Fluid in the ear
  • Ruptured membrane in the ear
  • Injury to the head or neck
The Center for Communication and Hearing maintains an updated list of medications that are associated with tinnitus.

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