Tinnitus involves the annoying sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. Tinnitus symptoms include these types of phantom noises in your ears:
The phantom noise may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and you may hear it in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it can interfere with your ability to concentrate or hear actual sound. Tinnitus may be present all the time, or it may come and go.
There are two kinds of tinnitus.
- Subjective tinnitus is tinnitus only you can hear. This is the most common type of tinnitus. It can be caused by ear problems in your outer, middle or inner ear. It also can be caused by problems with the hearing (auditory) nerves or the part of your brain that interprets nerve signals as sound (auditory pathways).
- Objective tinnitus is tinnitus your doctor can hear when he or she does an examination. This rare type of tinnitus may be caused by a blood vessel problem, an inner ear bone condition or muscle contractions.
When to see a doctor
If you have tinnitus that bothers you, see your doctor.
Make an appointment to see your doctor if:
- You develop tinnitus after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, and your tinnitus doesn't improve within a week.
See your doctor as soon as possible if:
- You have tinnitus that occurs suddenly or without an apparent cause.
- You have hearing loss or dizziness with the tinnitus.