What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is not a disease, it is a symptom of another underline issue instead of being a stand-alone condition. It is almost always referred to as "ringing in the ear," but the sounds you may hear can be diverse, including hissing, roaring, buzzing, or clicking. People with tinnitus perceive a noise or sound that is not audible to anyone else because there is no outside source.  
The degree to which people experience tinnitus symptoms can also vary from person to person. For some, the sounds appear temporarily, while for others, it can be a chronic issue. When tinnitus is connected to hearing loss, hearing care professionals recommend hearing aids to provide relief. 

What are the different types of tinnitus?

People experience tinnitus sounds in many different ways; there are various types of tinnitus. The main types are: 

  • Subjective tinnitus is the most common form that typically results from excessive noise exposure or aging-related hearing loss. It is not uncommon for this type to develop suddenly and stick around for three to twelve months. For some people, the symptoms can last even longer; occasionally, they never stop.  

  • Objective tinnitus is a rare type generally caused by vascular deformities and can be heard by someone other than the person affected.  

Other subcategories of the condition are musical and pulsatile tinnitus. The musical version typically occurs in people who have had hearing loss and tinnitus for a more extended period. The unique characteristic of the pulsatile type is that it aligns with the heartbeat. hear are internal or external.  

What are the most common underlying health conditions of tinnitus?

It is important to realize that tinnitus is simply a sign or symptom of something else that is going on in the body. Quite often, ringing in the ear results from damage to the auditory system. But while hearing loss is frequently associated with the condition, hundreds of other disorders are also linked to it. 
Here is a list of the most common health conditions associated with tinnitus: 
  • Sensorineural hearing loss (age-related or noise-induced)
  • Blockage in the ear canal (e.g., middle ear obstruction due to excessive earwax)
  • Severe injury to the head or neck
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
  • Nasal congestion and sinus pressure
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Ototoxic drugs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and certain antibiotics)

Other medical conditions that could potentially be the root cause of tinnitus are: 

  • Vestibular disorders such as Ménière's disease, otosclerosis
  • Metabolic disorders such as hypothyroidism
  • Psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Autoimmune disorders such as Lyme disease
  • Blood vessel disorders such as high blood pressure
  • Tumor-related disorders (very rare) such as acoustic neuroma
Although the list of potential health issues linked to tinnitus is quite lengthy, having ringing in the ear does not automatically mean that you have any of the above disorders. Therefore, it is critical to seek medical help. After the root of the cause is identified, a treatment plan will be recommended. 

Are there any tests for tinnitus?

Hearing tests and MRI

When you visit a hearing care professional you will go through an audiological examination. Hearing care professionals can determine if your auditory system is damaged or if there are other possible causes for your hearing troubles. For instance, speech-in-noise tests assess how well you can hear in different levels of background noise.  

Hearing Care Professionals may refer you to an Ear-Nose and Throat (ENT) or a Physician for a medical investigation. A magnetic resonance image (MRI) may be recommended by an ENT to rule out the possibility of more serious causes, such as an acoustic neuroma or other organic cause of tinnitus. 

Questionnaires are used to assess how the condition affects your quality of life. Your hearing care professional will ask you a series of questions to uncover the degree to which tinnitus-related distress impacts your life.  
Online hearing test
If you have trouble with your hearing, there is no reason not to get a hearing test. An online hearing test will give an initial assessment of your hearing and will provide the initial indicator of any possible hearing loss.  
Online Tinnitus Test
Keep in mind, online pitch matching is not a substitute for a professional medical diagnosis. 

Keep in mind, pitch matching is not a substitute for a professional medical diagnosis.

How do you confirm tinnitus?

Although online tests will give you an initial assessment of your hearing, correctly diagnosing tinnitus takes a more comprehensive approach. Make an appointment with a hearing care professional and undergo the necessary tests to get a definitive diagnosis. 


Although there is no cure for tinnitus symptoms, they can be managed. A tailored therapy recommended by a knowledgeable hearing professional will likely deliver positive results and provide relief. In addition, new treatment options come up every day, making this condition easier to treat than ever before. If you have hearing loss, be sure to get a regular hearing test. You can also start with an online hearing test.  
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not use the information as a substitute for, nor should it replace, professional medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.