1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email

What Is Causing My Ears to Ring?

By

Updated March 25, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What Is Causing My Ears to Ring?
Ear ringing is a condition that is perceived by the person experiencing it. Some people may hear high-pitched sounds, others may hear clicking, while others may experience something totally different. When someone complains of ringing, buzzing, or clicking in their ears it is called tinnitus.
Answer:

Ear ringing has many causes. If you've just attended a concert and you're wondering why your ears are ringing you'll be happy to know that the ringing will likely go away in a day or two. The bad news is you likely suffered some mild hearing loss from being exposed to loud noise. Loud noise is just one cause of ear ringing (more on this below), other causes include:

Too Much Ear wax

Believe it or not something as simple as too much ear wax can cause your ears to ring. You shouldn't try to remove the earwax yourself, but see your doctor. For more information read:

Middle Ear Infections

Middle ear infections, (also called otitis media or ear aches), occur when germs become trapped inside the auditory tube, the small tube that runs from the middle ear to the back of the throat. This usually happens because the auditory tube becomes clogged or obstructed, often by mucous. Middle ear infections are more common in children than adults due to the size and shape of a child's auditory tube, but ear infections in adults do occur. If the ringing in your ears is being caused by a middle ear infection you will likely have other symptoms as well and the ringing will go away when the infection clears up. To find out more read:

Hearing Loss

The older we get the more hearing we lose and the more likely we are to experience tinnitus. Most of us start losing our hearing very gradually after the age of 20. Of course getting older isn't the only cause of hearing loss. For more information on hearing loss read:

Changes in Blood Flow

Changes in blood flow, such as high blood pressure or anemia, can cause ear ringing. Sometimes changes in blood flow cause a type of ear ringing called pulsatile tinnitus because it sounds like your heart beating in your ears. Less commonly, pulsatile tinnitus can also be caused by tumors in or around the ear.

Meniere's Disease

Meniere's disease is a poorly understood condition which usually affects only one ear. In addition to tinnitus it causes vertigo (severe dizziness and poor balance), headaches, hearing loss, nausea and vomiting. The cause of Meniere's disease is unknown but there may be a genetic component and many people with Meniere's disease have a history of migraine headaches. For more information read: Meniere's Disease

Medications

Certain medications can cause ringing in your ears. Some medications are actually harmful to your ears and are called ototoxic. Ototoxic medications can damage your inner ear and cause hearing loss. A common medication that can cause this is aspirin. If you experience ringing in your ears and you have been taking aspirin you should stop immediately. Other medications that are ototoxic include certain antibiotics such as gentamicin.

Other medications are not ototoxic but can cause tinnitus by raising your blood pressure. For example, taking anemia, which has also been known to cause tinnitus. If your ears have just started ringing with no apparent cause, and you have just started a new medication, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Exposure to Loud Noise

Ear ringing that appears after you've attended a concert or been to a shooting range can be pretty easy to pinpoint, but you may be surprised to know that prolonged exposure to noises even 80 decibels or more can cause ear ringing and subsequent hearing loss. This means that even listening to your mp3 player with the volume too high can damage your hearing. Other noises that are louder than 80 decibels: the kitchen blender, a motorcycle engine, a lawn mower, chain saws, hand drills, blow dryers, and shouting. Loud noises damage the tiny hair cells in the cochlea that are essential for hearing, and they are irreplaceable. The only good news? Noise-induced hearing loss is very preventable and ear ringing is one of the first symptoms of hearing loss. To prevent hearing loss turn down the volume, wear ear plugs, and limit your exposure to loud noise.

Other Causes of Ear Ringing

  • stress
  • head injuries
  • otosclerosis
  • migraine headaches
  • smoking

Sources:

American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. Tinnitus. Accessed: February 8, 2012 from http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/tinnitus.cfm

American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Noise. Accessed: February 8, 2012 from http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Noise/

American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Tinnitus. Accessed: February 8, 2012 from http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/tinnitus/

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Ear, Nose, & Throat Disorders
  4. ENT Disorders A - Z
  5. ENT Disorders: D - F
  6. What is Causing My Ears to Ring?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.