Causes Of Tinnitus
November 03, 2020

Tinnitus causes ringing or the perception of ringing in the ears and is often related to hearing loss. That said, the causes range far and wide, from exposure to loud noises to certain neurological or somatic conditions in the body. In this article, we will dive deeper into the different causes of tinnitus so that you can get a better idea of what may be causing it for you.

Most Common Causes of Tinnitus

MRI image of 3 patients with tinnitus.

A vast range of different reasons can cause tinnitus, and we’ve listed some of the most common causes below.  

Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis)

Aging and tinnitus are inherently related to one another. Aging can commonly lead to hearing loss, and hearing loss can lead to tinnitus. Age-related hearing loss, medically known as presbycusis, is an otological cause of tinnitus (meaning it is of or relating to the ear). This is one of, if not the most common, causes of hearing loss and tinnitus. It is often related to loss of hearing in the high pitches.

Noise exposure

Like aging, exposure to loud noise (especially over a long period of time) can cause hearing loss and tinnitus. After short term noise exposure, patients may only experience temporary symptoms of tinnitus. After long term exposure, there may be permanent hearing damage, hearing loss, and tinnitus.


Family history and genetics can certainly cause tinnitus; different otological, neurological, or infectious causes can lead to tinnitus. Genetic conditions such as Meniere’s Disease or Lyme Disease may cause tinnitus, and even disorders like Temporomandibular-Joint Dysfunction (which can be influenced by genetics) can lead to tinnitus symptoms arising. 

Earwax buildup (impacted cerumen)

Earwax buildup (medically known as impacted cerumen) is a common otological cause of tinnitus. Earwax is meant to protect your ear canal from external contaminants such as dust, pollen, and other toxins. Too much earwax buildup can cause damage and even obstruct your ear canal, which in turn can cause tinnitus. Earwax buildup is a relatively common cause of tinnitus, but luckily it is easy to fix. 

Meniere’s Disease

Meniere’s Disease is an otological disorder of the inner ear that’s often related to ear fluid pressure and causes vertigo. It usually starts in just one ear but can end up affecting both ears. To be diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, you must have at least two vertigo episodes, be diagnosed with hearing loss, and have tinnitus. The vestibular system in the inner ear is related to balance; this system helps detect movement based on the direction of your ear. This is why Meniere’s Disease causes vertigo; increased pressure in the inner ear throws off your vestibular system. Treatment usually involves medications and what is known as vestibular exercises which can be explained by ENT specialists or audiologists.

Injury to head or neck

Acute injury to the head or neck, such as trauma or whiplash, can be a neurological cause of tinnitus. This means that they can affect crucial areas for hearing function such as the inner ear, the nerves, or the brain. Head and neck injuries often cause tinnitus in only one ear. It’s recommended to get diagnosed by a professional immediately if you have tinnitus after a head and neck injury.

These are just a few of the most common causes of tinnitus, but there is a myriad of others that aren’t outlined in the list above. Below we provide a more in-depth overview of the leading causes and some more information related to each one.

Otological Causes of Tinnitus

Otological causes of tinnitus

Some of the most common causes of tinnitus tend to be due to otological problems. These may include:
  • Noise exposure
  • Otitis
  • Earwax buildup (impacted cerumen)
  • Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis)
  • Otosclerosis
  • Meniere’s disease

These are some of the most prevalent otological causes of tinnitus, but many are not listed here.

Neurological Causes of Tinnitus

Neurological causes of tinnitus

Tinnitus is commonly caused by neurological injuries, issues, or disorders; these may include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Acute head injury or whiplash
  • Vestibular schwannoma
  • Multiple sclerosis

Other neurological issues not listed above may also cause tinnitus.

Infectious Causes of Tinnitus 

Infectious causes of tinnitus

Tinnitus may also be caused by infectious diseases or problems, such as:

  • Lyme Disease
  • Meningitis
  • Syphilis
  • Otitis media

Tinnitus may also come from other infectious diseases that cause inflammation in the ear.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line causes of tinnitus

These are just a few of the most common causes of tinnitus outlined in this article, but there are dozens more. The type of tinnitus you have may vary based on the actual cause. If you think you have tinnitus, we recommend seeing a professional to get diagnosed and have a better understanding of your condition. Although frustrating at times, tinnitus often subsides on its own or can be managed by an ENT specialist or audiologist.

At Audien Hearing, our goal is to make hearing affordable for everyone. While our devices are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure conditions such as tinnitus, we have thousands of customers who swear by our products and how much they have helped them! Oftentimes, all people with mild to moderate tinnitus need is some level of white noise. Luckily, most hearing aids create a little bit of white noise - which can be just what you might need!

Give us a try, and worst case, you can return it for a full refund (and we’ll even recommend another brand for you to try out). Best case, you get relief for your hearing loss or tinnitus, and you save thousands of dollars!

Thanks for reading our resource, and we hope you give Audien Hearing a try. 


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Drew Sutton M.D.

Drew Sutton, MD is a board-certified otolaryngologist. He has extensive experience and training in sinus and respiratory diseases, ear and skull base surgery, and pulmonary disorders. He has served as a Clinical Instructor at Grady Hospital Emory University for more than 12 years.

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