Many people experience an occasional ringing (or roaring, hissing,
buzzing, or tinkling) in their ears. The sound usually lasts only a few
minutes. Ringing in the ears that does not get better or go away is called
tinnitus. You may hear a sound, such as a ringing or
roaring, that does not come from your surroundings (nobody else can hear it).
The sound may keep time with your heartbeat, it may keep pace with your
breathing, it may be constant, or it may come and go. Tinnitus is most common
in people older than age 40. Men have problems with tinnitus more often than
- See a picture of the
There are two main types of tinnitus.
- Pulsatile (like a heartbeat) tinnitus is often caused by sounds created by muscle movements near the
ear, changes in the ear canal, or blood flow (vascular) problems in the face or
neck. You may hear sounds such as your own pulse or the contractions of your
- Nonpulsatile tinnitus is caused by
problems in the nerves involved with hearing. You may hear sounds in one or
both ears. Sometimes this type of tinnitus is described as coming from inside
The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss that occurs
with aging (presbycusis), but it can also be caused by living or
working around loud noises (acoustic trauma). Tinnitus can occur
with all types of hearing loss and may be a symptom of almost any ear disorder.
Other possible causes of tinnitus include:
Most tinnitus that comes and goes does not require medical
treatment. You may need to see your doctor if tinnitus occurs with other
symptoms, does not get better or go away, or is in only one ear. There may not
be a cure for tinnitus, but your doctor can help you learn how to live with the
problem and make sure a more serious problem is not causing your
Use the Check Your Symptoms section to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.