Tinnitus is a Symptom

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus or chronic ringing in one or both ears is hard to treat often because the causes of tinnitus are varied and difficult to pinpoint.  As I've mentioned before, technically tinnitus is a condition with an underlying cause, not a disease.  Sometimes physicians are able to determine the cause of a patient’s tinnitus and treatment can stop the bothersome ringing.  Other times, the cause may be hard to find and in this case the sufferer has to figure out how to manage the condition.

Read on about some of the well-known causes of tinnitus:

Damaged Nerves

TinnitusBooksNerve damage inside the inner ear is one of the most common causes of tinnitus.  In the ear, sound must pass from the outer ear to the middle ear and into the inner ear.  The inner ear contains nerves sending signals to the brain so that sounds can be interpreted.  If nerves in the inner ear sustain damage, this can impair the signals sent to the brain, resulting in the brain thinking that it hears sounds when it doesn’t.  Further, nerve damage and the sound impulses being sent to the brain as a result of it explains the different sounds tinnitus sufferers who have nerve damage might hear.

Aging and Resulting Hearing Loss

Hearing loss due to aging is known as presbycusis and is usually sets in around age 60.  When the hearing nerves become less sensitive because of hearing loss, this can cause tinnitus. 

Loud Noise Exposure

For younger people, nerve damage in the ear is often caused by exposure to loud noise.  If you’ve ever been to a loud concert and have experienced ringing in your ears the next day or days following, this is a kind of temporary tinnitus that more often than not goes away.  Sustained exposure to loud noises can cause permanent nerve damage and ringing in the ears.  Not only will loud concerts cause tinnitus but ongoing exposure to portable music devices or workplace noise may also damage nerves in the ears.


Even though earwax is natural, sometimes we can accumulate too much and it may cause hearing problems or ringing in the ears.

Disorders of the Blood Vessels

Blood vessel problems are perhaps a lesser cause of tinnitus (specifically referred to as pulsatile tinnitus) and can be caused by hypertension, atherosclerosis, tumors in the head and neck or capillary malformation.


Some medicines, both prescribed and over-the-counter, may cause tinnitus or make the condition worse for sufferers.  Diuretics, antibiotics, aspirin, cancer medications and quinines have been documented as having this effect in some people.  Usually doctors can change a medication if it causes or exacerbates ringing in the ears.

I’ve listed some of the prevalent causes of tinnitus.  Keep in mind that it can be caused by any of the above as well as depression, head injuries and other problems.  Remember that tinnitus can be a symptom of another health issue so it’s important to work with your physician to figure out the underlying cause of ringing of the ears if indeed this is something you suffer with.  Tinnitus can wear on a person but perhaps the only benefit to this condition is that it often indicates another health problem.  In this way, tinnitus can function as a warning to the sufferer and his physician of an underlying health issue.