What Causes Tinnitus?

Last modified: 
25/04/2012 - 15:32

Tinnitus may be a symptom of a variety of ear disorders or other medical conditions. Usually it is difficult for doctors to determine the exact cause of tinnitus.

Many disorders of the ear, including a problem with one or more of the five parts of the hearing mechanism, may cause tinnitus. Tinnitus may also be a symptom associated with:

  • Blocked ear canal
  • Blocked eustachian tube
  • Ear infection

    For further information about ear infection, go to Middle Ear Infection.

  • Otosclerosis: a common ear disorder characterized by unusual stiffness or lack of flexibility of the tine bones of the middle ear. This condition frequently causes tinnitus.
  • Meniere's disease: a disorder of the inner ear characterized by recurrent dizziness, deafness, and tinnitus. In 80 to 85 percent of cases, only one ear is affected.
  • Damage caused by certain drugs, including aspirin and certain antibiotics
  • Hearing loss

    For further information about hearing loss, go to Hearing Loss.

  • Trauma or injury resulting from a blast or explosion
  • Temporomandibular joint syndrome or TMJ: pain and other symptoms affecting the head, jaw, and face. TMJ is believed to be caused when the jaw joints and muscles and ligaments that support them are not working properly.

Tinnitus may also occur along with certain other medical conditions, such as:

  • Anemia, or a condition in which blood levels of hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen to nourish the tissues of the body, are below normal

    For further information about anemia, go to Anemia.

  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure

    For further information about high blood pressure, go to High Blood Pressure (Hypertension).

  • Arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries
  • Hypothyroidism, or low levels of thyroid hormone production

    For further information about hypothyroidism, go to Hypothyroidism.

  • Presbycusis: hearing loss and other hearing problems related to advanced age.
  • Head injury

Nice To Know:

Q. "Otosclerosis" or hardening of parts of the inner ear sounds serious. What is it, exactly?

A. Otosclerosis is a common ear disorder characterized by unusual stiffness or lack of flexibility of the tiny bones of the middle ear. This condition frequently causes tinnitus. In some cases, otosclerosis is caused by the markedly increased local blood supply. In other people, it is caused by the leakage of harmful substances from the diseased bone. This directly damages the inner ear hearing cells. The protective bony casing surrounding the inner ear may also become diseased.

Is Tinnitus Hereditary?

There are a few rare inherited inner ear disorders, such as neurofibromatosis in which tinnitus may be a feature. However, in the vast majority of cases, this condition does not seem to run in families or be inherited as a genetic trait.

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.