What You Need to Know About Tinnitus

a hearing specialist performing a hearing aid fitting for his elderly patient

A person experiencing tinnitus may hear ringing in the ears. It can also be clicking, whistling or hissing sounds. The U.S CDC estimates that about 15% of the US population experience tinnitus-which is approximately 50 million Americans. Tinnitus can be caused by underlying issues such as an ear injury, issues with the circulatory system or age. For most individuals, tinnitus can improve with treatment. 

Symptoms of tinnitus 

Tinnitus can manifest in various perceived sounds, both pulsing and tonal. It can cause:

  • Hissing
  • Buzzing
  • Humming
  • Roaring, and
  • Clicking

Generally, there are two types of tinnitus, namely:

  • Subjective: This type of tinnitus can be traced to neurological and auditory reactions to hearing loss. It’s the most common type of tinnitus. 
  • Objective tinnitus: In this case, the noises are audible to the patient and other people. This type of tinnitus is rare and only represents one percent of the reported cases. 


Tinnitus is not a disease, but some underlying conditions can worsen its symptoms. The following conditions can cause it:

Ear canal blockage or infection

Ear canal blockage happens when earwax accumulates in the ear or becomes hard to clean. Earwax is important as it lubricates and cleans your ear canal. It protects the ear against the growth of bacteria and attracting dirt. 

A blocked canal will change the pressure in the ear, leading to tinnitus. 


Some medication can cause or worsen the symptoms of tinnitus. The unwanted noise will disappear when you stop taking such drugs. 

Cancer drugs, NSAIDS, diuretics, antimalarial medications and certain antibiotics are the leading causes of tinnitus. 

Hearing loss

The delicate, tiny hair cells in the cochlea move when the ear receives sound waves, triggering electric signals from the ear to the auditory nerve. If the hairs inside the ear are broken or bent, they can leak random electrical signals to your brain, leading to tinnitus. 

Blood vessel disorders

Conditions like high blood pressure, malformed blood vessels or atherosclerosis can cause blood to move through arteries and veins forcefully. Such high blood pressure can cause tinnitus. 

When to see a hearing health professional

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of tinnitus, talk to your local hearing care provider. Symptoms and signs might be an indication of another condition. Having signs such as decreased hearing or earache doesn’t mean you have excessive wax.

It could be a possibility of a medical condition affecting your ears. That’s why booking an appointment with a hearing health professional is imperative. 


Tinnitus can be prevented in several ways, including: 

  • Turning down the volume: Exposure to loud music without ear protection can cause tinnitus and hearing loss. If you work in an industry that uses firearms or use a chainsaw, ensure you wear hearing aids with masking features. 
  • Limit caffeine, nicotine and alcohol: When these substances are used in excess, they can affect your blood flow and cause tinnitus. 

Tinnitus can happen to anyone and at any age. This condition can improve with the right and timely treatment. If you’ve symptoms and signs, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with a hearing health professional.