What is Tinnitus? Why Is There Ringing In My Ear?

Tinnitus is a common problem which causes ringing in the ears and affects approximately one in five people. Symptoms of tinnitus include a ringing, swishing, hissing or other type of noise that appears to originate from the inner ear or head without an external cause; the noise can be heard in either one ear or both. Tinnitus is not usually considered to be a serious medical condition; however it can be quite a nuisance and even disruptive to normal activities for the one who suffers from it.

There are two types of tinnitus; subjective and objective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is the most common type of tinnitus and is a noise that only the patient is able to hear. Subjective tinnitus is most frequently associated with some type of noise-induced hearing loss but can also be caused by the following situations:

Some less common causes are:

Objective tinnitus is much rarer, and can actually be heard by a physician during a physical examination. It can originate from muscle spasms that cause clicks or crackling around the middle ear or sometimes a pulsing sound resulting from altered blood flow or increased blood turbulence near the ear.


Although anyone can get tinnitus, some people are more likely to develop the condition. This includes men, people of white race, adults over the age of 65, and those with age-related hearing loss. In addition, people who have been exposed to loud noises for extended periods of time and those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are known to have higher rates of tinnitus.

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