What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or roaring sound that you hear in one or both ears. It is caused when cells in part of your inner ear are damaged, and they send signals to the brain making you think you are hearing things that are not there. This condition can occur in adults and in children.

There are several causes of tinnitus, including:

  • normal aging,
  • hearing loss,
  • loud noise (for example, from construction work such as jackhammers, gunfire, loud music at concerts, etc.),
  • medications (including some antibiotics, anti-seizure medicines, and painkillers),
  • head or neck injuries, and
  • certain diseases.

Other associated causes of tinnitus include:

  • stiffening of the bones in the middle ear (otosclerosis),
  • tumors within the auditory system,
  • blood vessels or neurologic disorders, and
  • genetic or inherited inner ear disorders.

If you have tinnitus you also may suffer from anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Discuss treatments with your doctor. While tinnitus cannot always be cured, there are many treatments available for you to make it easier to live with tinnitus. See your doctor if tinnitus is accompanied by dizziness, fever, or headache; as this may signal a more serious condition.

Medically reviewed by Peter O’Connor, MD; American Board of Otolaryngology with subspecialty in Sleep Medicine


American Academy of Otolaryngolgy. Clinical Practice Guidelines: Tinnitus.

MedscapeReference.com. Tinnitus.

UpToDate. Patient information: Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) (Beyond the Basics)

Vestibular Disorders Association. Tinnitus.