• Definition

    Tinnitus is the medical term for "hearing" noises in your ears when there is no outside source of the sounds.

    The noises you hear can be soft or loud. They may sound like ringing, blowing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, humming, whistling, or sizzling. You may even think you are hearing air escaping, water running, the inside of a seashell, or musical notes.

    Alternative Names

    Ringing in the ears; Noises or buzzing in the ears; Ear buzzing


    Tinnitus is common. Almost everyone experiences a mild form of tinnitus once in awhile that only lasts a few minutes. However, constant or recurring tinnitus is stressful and can interfere with your ability to concentrate or sleep.

    Common Causes

    It is not known exactly what causes a person to "hear" sounds with no outside source of the noise. However, tinnitus can be a symptom of almost any ear problem, including:

    • Ear infections
    • Foreign objects or wax in the ear
    • Injury from loud noises
    • Meniere's disease -- an inner ear disorder that involves hearing loss and dizziness

    Alcohol, caffeine, antibiotics, aspirin, or other drugs can also cause ear noises.

    Tinnitus may occur with hearing loss. Occasionally, it is a sign of high blood pressure, an allergy, or anemia. Rarely, tinnitus is a sign of a serious problem like a tumor or aneurysm.