Tinnitus

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Steven Doerr, MD
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

Hearing Ringing in Your Ears?

Quick GuideTinnitus (Ringing in the Ears) Causes, Symptoms, Remedies and Treatments

Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears) Causes, Symptoms, Remedies and Treatments

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease, and it has a variety of causes that may arise anywhere in the hearing mechanism. It begins in the ear with the tympanic membrane and the cochlea, where sound is transmitted and transformed into electrical energy for the brain to perceive.

  • Blood flow and/or tumors: Tinnitus that is throbbing (pulsatile) may be due to blood flow through arteries and veins adjacent to the ear, as well as tumors that are vascular, meaning that they have increased blood flow within them.
  • Muscle spasms: Tinnitus that is described as clicking may be due to abnormalities that cause the muscle in the roof of the mouth (palate) to go into spasm. This causes the Eustachian tube, which helps equalize pressure in the ears, to repeatedly open and close. Multiple sclerosis and other neurologic diseases that are associated with muscle spasms may also be a cause of tinnitus, as they may lead to spasms of certain muscles in the middle ear that can cause the repetitive clicking.
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) abnormalities may cause a repeated clicking sound in the ear.
  • Damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve: Damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve responsible for transmitting sound from the ear to the brain may cause tinnitus. Causes may include drug toxicity or a tumor (for example, acoustic neuroma).
  • Meniere's disease, which is associated with hearing loss and vertigo also may cause tinnitus.
  • Aging: As people age, their hearing may decrease and there can be associated tinnitus.
  • Otosclerosis: Otosclerosis, which is caused by abnormal bone growth in the middle ear, can sometimes cause tinnitus.
  • Trauma may also be a cause of tinnitus and hearing loss. This includes barotrauma, whereby air pressure changes can damage ear function. Examples of barotrauma include pressure changes from scuba diving or changes in air pressure when flying.

What does the anatomy of the ear look like?

Picture of the Ear Anatomy
Picture of the Ear Anatomy
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/24/2015

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