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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Ringing in the Ears

Ringing in the Ears

Alternate Names : Tinnitus

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Ringing in the ears refers to a sound that usually only the affected person can hear. The sound is not coming from the environment. Instead it seems to be coming from the person's body or from the ear itself. Other noises, such as buzzing or roaring, may also be heard.

What is going on in the body?

Ringing in the ears is a common problem, especially in elderly individuals. The ringing or other sound may be constant, or it may come and go. Usually, the ringing is not caused by serious problems. Most of the time, it does not interfere with activities. In rare cases, ringing in the ears can be a sign of a serious condition.

What are the causes and risks of the symptom?

Ringing or other noises heard in the ears can have many causes, including:

  • abnormal blood flow around the ear, due to a cerebral aneurysm or malformed blood vessel in the brain
  • age-related hearing loss, with up to 25% of people over the age of 60 experiencing occasional high-pitched ringing in their ears
  • anxiety or depression
  • damage to the ear from chronic exposure, such as damage from working near loud machines daily, which leads to occupational hearing loss
  • damage to the ear from noise that occurs suddenly, for example, an explosion
  • damage to the hearing area of the brain, caused by a stroke, multiple sclerosis, or other conditions
  • damage to the hearing nerves, as a result of trauma, a brain tumor, or other conditions
  • ear wax build-up
  • excess caffeine intake
  • infections in the ear, such as chronic otitis media or labyrinthitis
  • medications, such as aspirin, the heart medicine known as quinidine, and carbamazepine, a medication used to treat seizures
  • Meniere's disease, a condition that also causes severe vertigo, or a spinning sensation
  • otosclerosis, a condition in which the tiny hearing bones in the inner ear cannot move properly
  • There are other possible causes of ringing in the ears. Sometimes the cause cannot be found.


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    Ringing in the Ears: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 08/06/01

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