What Causes Tinnitus?

a woman experiencing slight ear discomfort

Tinnitus can be described as a buzzing or ringing noise that only you or a specialist can hear in one or both ears. If you are experiencing any symptoms that lead you to believe you have tinnitus, then you should speak with a specialist to ensure it does not lead to any long-term problems, and who can speak to you about different treatments.

There is a range of different treatments available, from making lifestyle changes and cutting bad habits, such as quitting smoking and alcohol, using specialist hearing aids that mask the noise, sound machines, and tinnitus retraining therapy.

The type of treatment and how long you need treatment for will entirely depend on what kind of tinnitus you have and what has caused it. Tinnitus can be experienced as a result of many different things. Here are a few examples of the most common causes of tinnitus.

Ear infection 

If you have or recently had an ear infection, or a blockage in your ear canal, the buildup of fluid can impact the pressure in your ear and turn, causing tinnitus. The fluid usually builds up as a result of earwax, dirt, or foreign debris. 

Hearing loss 

Due to the changes in your ear that occur when you start to lose your hearing, you could develop tinnitus. This is because of the damage that is caused to the small hairs inside your ear (typically bent or broken) and the leak electrical impulses that create the noise you hear. 


As you get older, the functioning in your ear is not as optimal as it was before, and the nerve fibers in your ear start to decay or break.


Certain medications are known to cause tinnitus, as a side effect. The tinnitus usually only lasts the time the medication is taken and often is worsened by a high dosage of medication. The most common medications that are known to cause tinnitus are antibiotics, cancer medication, antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and more. 

Head injury

If you experience a head or neck injury, there is a chance that you can damage parts of your ear that are linked to the nerves or brain functions that allow you to hear. 

Exposure to loud noises

If you are exposed to loud noises, whether a one-off event or regularly, there is a high chance that you can develop tinnitus. Loud noises can range from work equipment such as chain saws and drills, firearms, loud music in headphones or at a concert, etc. 

Health problems

There is a wide range of conditions that can both cause tinnitus, or tinnitus is an early sign of them developing. A few examples of these diseases or disorders are diabetes, temporomandibular joint disorder, thyroid problems, Meniere’s disease, migraines, autoimmune disorders, obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, and much more. 


If you consume a large amount of tobacco, alcohol, and excessive stress, you are at a much greater risk of experiencing tinnitus. 

There is a plethora of different reasons why you may develop tinnitus. If you are experiencing any of the above, then you should speak to a hearing instrument specialist (HIS) to help you seek treatment.