Tinnitus is the perception of sound when there is no actual noise. It may be a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking noise. Pulsatile tinnitus is caused by the flow of blood. It happens with each heartbeat. Tinnitus can be a temporary or long-term problem.
Sound waves cause vibration or pressure on small structures in the ear. This creates signals that are sent to the brain. Damage to this system may cause signals when sound is not present. It may be caused by one or more of the following:
Damage to inner ear hair cells
Damage to inner ear after you are around loud sounds—may last only few minutes
Ear bone changes such as stiffening of bones in the middle ear
Ear wax build-up
Age-related hearing loss
Damage to ear drum or nerves
Different health problems can cause or worsen tinnitus. An exact cause may not be found.
Factors that may increase your chances of tinnitus:
Work or activity that has loud noises
Wax or object in the ear canal
Certain medicine, such as aspirin, antibiotics, or diuretics
Toxins, such as heavy metals, carbon monoxide, or alcohol
Understanding the facts. American Tinnitus Association website. Available at: https://www.ata.org/understanding-facts. Accessed December 17, 2019.
Last reviewed December 2019 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Nicole Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 6/12/2020
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