Why Are My Ears Ringing?

Understanding the Facts

Do you (or a loved one) experience ringing, buzzing, whooshing, or other sound/s in your ear/s or head that no one else can hear? If so, you are not alone. You have tinnitus, an audiological and neurological condition experienced by more than 50 million American adults.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. While it is commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus can manifest many different perceptions of sound, including buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking. In some rare cases, tinnitus patients report hearing music. Tinnitus can be both an acute (temporary) condition or a chronic (ongoing) health condition.

Millions of Americans experience tinnitus, making it one of the most common health conditions in the country. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that approximately 10 percent of the U.S. adult population — over 25 million Americans — experience some form of tinnitus. Roughly 5 million people struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus, while 2 million find it debilitating.

There are two types of tinnitus:

Subjective Tinnitus: Head or ear noises that are perceivable only to the specific patient. Subjective tinnitus is usually traceable to auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss but can also be caused by an array of other catalysts. More than 99% of all reported tinnitus cases are of the subjective variety.

Objective Tinnitus: Head or ear noises that are audible to other people, as well as the patient. These sounds are usually produced by internal functions in the body’s circulatory (blood flow) and somatic (musculoskeletal movement)  systems. Objective tinnitus is very rare, representing less than 1% of total tinnitus cases.