Understanding Tinnitus & What Causes Ringing in Ears

Understanding Tinnitus & What Causes Ringing in Ears

Understanding the cause of ear ringing, often known as tinnitus, can be like solving a hard jigsaw. With so many potential triggers and individual differences, it can be difficult to determine the cause of the disease. 

Despite its complexities, getting a deeper knowledge of tinnitus and what causes the ringing sensation in our ears is critical for effective therapy.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a sound that is experienced even when no external stimulation is present. It is generally referred to as ringing in the ears, although it can also be heard as buzzing, hissing, humming, or even roaring. 

Tinnitus is not a separate issue; rather, it is a sign of a larger problem. These diseases range from modest earwax obstruction to severe nerve damage or persistent health issues. 

These noises can be perceived differently; for some, they are a persistent source of discomfort, while for others, they come and go regularly.

Types of Tinnitus

Tinnitus is often divided into two types: subjective and objective.

Subjective Tinnitus

Subjective Tinnitus is the most frequent, when only the individual affected may detect the ringing sound. This type of tinnitus is frequently connected to problems with the auditory nerves or the region of the brain that processes sound.

Objective Tinnitus

Although rare, objective tinnitus occurs when the doctor can hear a ringing sound during an examination. Blood vessel disorders, muscular spasms, or middle ear bone abnormalities commonly cause this form of tinnitus

Causes of Ringing in Ears

Identifying the underlying cause of ear ringing can assist professionals in developing the optimal treatment approach. Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of circumstances, but it is most commonly associated with hearing loss due to age or extended exposure to loud noises.

Other common causes are:

Ear Infections: Tinnitus can be caused by ear infections, especially those that cause hearing loss or eardrum damage.

Earwax Blockage: Excessive earwax can build and cause ringing in the ears by disrupting eardrum vibrations.

Ototoxic Medications: Some medicines can create tinnitus as a side effect, and removing the medication can prevent the ringing.

Meniere’s Disease: It is an inner ear illness that can produce vertigo (a spinning feeling), tinnitus, and hearing loss.

Auditory Nerve Damage: Tinnitus can be caused by nerve damage in the inner ear (for example, by aging or extended noise exposure).

Migraine or High Blood Pressure: Tinnitus is reported by some persons who have a migraine or high blood pressure.

Tinnitus can be temporary or chronic. Temporary tinnitus is common following exposure to loud noise and normally resolves itself. Chronic tinnitus, on the other hand, continues over time and may necessitate therapy.


Tinnitus is often diagnosed after a full hearing examination by an audiologist or otolaryngologist (a physician who specializes in ear, nose, and throat issues). This entails providing a complete medical history and doing various procedures, including a physical examination, an audiological (hearing) exam, and, in certain situations, imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan.

The clinician may also administer pitch-matching and loudness-matching tests, in which you are asked to compare the sound you hear to a series of test tones to identify its pitch and volume.

Together, these tests offer a more complete picture of the likely origin of the perceivable noises, which can help plan a focused therapy.

Treatments for Ringing in Ears

While there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for tinnitus, there are a few ways that can help control the symptoms:

Sound Therapy: White noise devices or hearing aids can assist in disguising and relieving ringing noises.

Counseling and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): These therapy treatments educate patients about tinnitus and provide coping skills to handle the stress and anxiety associated with it.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT): It is a combination of sound therapy and counseling that helps patients progressively become less aware of their tinnitus noises.

Medication: While no drug can cure tinnitus, several can help alleviate the symptoms or problems. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, for example, can treat sadness and anxiety caused by tinnitus.

Treatment of Underlying Illness: If tinnitus is caused by an underlying illness (such as high blood pressure or an ear infection), addressing the ailment can typically relieve the tinnitus.


Although the source of ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, might be perplexing, a thorough understanding can help you navigate the illness and manage its effects. It’s crucial to remember that tinnitus is generally a symptom of something else, not a sickness.

By understanding more about tinnitus, its forms, fundamental causes, and potential therapies, you may better manage the condition and reduce the loudness of the ringing in your ears. If you are experiencing chronic tinnitus symptoms, consult with a healthcare expert for an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

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Dr. Kimberly Langdon

Kimberly Langdon

Dr. Kimberly Langdon has been an MD for 31 years, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place accolades for her Senior Research Project and Score of 98th percentile on a National Proficiency Test.

During her clinical career, she delivered over 2000 babies and specialized in minimally invasive procedures, menopause, endometriosis, menstrual disorders, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. After retiring from clinical practice, she founded a medical device company to commercialize her two patented and four patent-pending medical devices for both life-threatening and non-life-threatening infections.

Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Coologics, 2010-present
The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine 1987-1991
The Ohio State University Hospital Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program 1991-1995
Private practice 1995-2010

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., received his medical doctorate from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. During his medical school training, Dr. Hsu worked with various patients, including adult and pediatric patients with acute and chronic conditions. Dr. Hsu’s interests include neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, and sleep medicine.

Before medical school, Dr. Hsu finished a master’s degree at Harvard University and wrote a thesis on neuroimaging in schizophrenia patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospital. Dr. Hsu was also a part of the 2008 NASA Phoenix Lander Mission team, which sent a robotic spacecraft to the North polar region of Mars. Dr. Hsu also had research experience on neuroimaging in neonates at Boston Children’s Hospital, another Harvard Medical School-affiliated Hospital.

Since graduating from medical school, Dr. Hsu has worked as a full-time medical writer and consultant. In addition, he has experience writing and ghostwriting books and articles for physicians and health technology start-up companies. Dr. Hsu believes good communication between healthcare providers and patients creates the best results.


-Peer Reviewed Journal Article:
Kounaves, S.P., Hecht, M.H., West, S.J., Morookian, J.-M., Young, S.M.M., Quinn, R., Grunthaner, P., Wen, X., Weilert, M., Cable, C.A., Fisher, A., Gospodinova, K., Kapit, J., Stroble, S., Hsu, P.-C., Clark, B.C., Ming, D.W. and Smith, P.H. The MECA wet chemistry laboratory on the 2007 phoenix mars scout Lander. Journal of Geophysical Research. 2009, Mar; 114(E3): 10.1029/2008je003084.

-Poster Presentation:
2011 Harvard Psychiatry Mysell Poster Session; Boston, MA
Hsu, P.C., Rathi, Y., Eckbo, R., Nestor, P., Niznikiewicz, M., Thompson, E., Kubicki, M., Shenton, M.E. (March, 2011). Two-Tensor Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Acoustic Radiations in Schizophrenia

Dr. Nicolette Natale

Nicolette Natale

Dr. Nicolette Natale is a physician, with a background in Psychology, General Medicine, and English Literature, combining her expertise to provide readers with the most accurate, easy-to-understand, and comprehensive information regarding healthcare. She received her Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine from Nova Southeastern University, and her bachelor’s in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Miami. Dr. Natale seeks to empower individuals with knowledge, fostering a greater understanding of holistic health and encouraging a proactive approach to well-being