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Tinnitus Sounds, Symptoms, Causes, and Remedies

Facts and Definition of Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)

  • Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, swishing, clicking, or other type of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head rather than from an external source.
  • Tinnitus is not an illness itself but a symptom of other conditions, such as:
  • An increase in pressure of the fluid surrounding the brain, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
  • The main symptom of tinnitus is hearing sound in your ears not due to an external source that no one around you can hear. The noise is often described as ringing, buzzing, clicking, or rushing. Hearing loss and dizziness may occur if the tinnitus is due to Meniere's disease.
  • Because tinnitus is due to other health conditions that may require medical treatment, it should be evaluated by a doctor, especially if the tinnitus is only on one side, is sudden, or is associated with hearing loss.
  • Treatment of tinnitus depends upon the cause and may include medications, stress reduction techniques, biofeedback, lifestyle changes, tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), masking devices, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Home remedies are generally not recommended for tinnitus because they may not address the underlying cause.
  • The best way to prevent some cases of tinnitus is to avoid damage to your hearing, such as loud noise exposure. For many other causes there may be no way to prevent the accompanying tinnitus symptoms.
  • There is currently no cure for most cases of tinnitus.
  • Symptoms of tinnitus may come and go over time, and if you have had tinnitus it's likely it will recur. While it may be annoying, most people can learn to cope with it. Stress, diet, and noise exposure may worsen symptoms.

How Do You Pronounce Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is pronounced tih-NIGHT-us or TIN-ih-tus.

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, hissing, swishing, clicking, or other type of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head. Most of us will experience tinnitus or sounds in the ears at some time or another. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 10% of adults in the U.S. - nearly 25 million Americans - have experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year. Tinnitus is identified more frequently in white individuals, and the prevalence of tinnitus in the U.S. is almost twice as frequent in the South as in the Northeast.

Tinnitus can be extremely disturbing to people who have it. In many cases it is not a serious health problem, but rather a nuisance that may go away. However, some people with tinnitus may require medical or surgical treatment. Sixteen million Americans seek medical treatment each year for tinnitus, and about one-quarter of those experience it so severely it interferes with their daily activities.

Where Does the Condition Originate?

Tinnitus can arise in any of the four sections of the hearing system. They include the:

  1. Outer ear
  2. Middle ear
  3. Inner ear
  4. Brain

Some tinnitus or "head noise" is normal. A number of techniques and treatments may be of help, depending on the cause.

Picture of the structures of the outer, middle, and inner ear
Picture of the structures of the outer, middle, and inner ear
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Tinnitus (Ringing, Clicking, in the Ears):

Tinnitus - Experience

Please describe your experience with tinnitus.

Tinnitus - Medical Treatment

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Tinnitus - Effective Treatments

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Tinnitus - Causes

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Tinnitus and Aspirin Use: Be Careful!

Most everyone has taken an aspirin now and then to relieve aches, pains, and bruises. Some people take a small daily dose of aspirin for heart attack treatment and prevention. Have you ever lost count of how many you've taken in one, two, or even three days?

One of the earliest symptoms of aspirin poisoning is ringing in the ears, or tinnitus. More serious symptoms are vomiting, dehydration, and double vision. Be careful because taking to many can cause acute aspirin poisoning.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Inner Ear, Tinnitus »

Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the head or the ears.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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