Why do you hear a ringing in your ear?

Did the refrigerator just get louder? Or maybe there is a snake slithering around your American Fork kitchen. Unfortunately, neither of these are what is happening right now. That low buzzing, hissing, or ringing in your ear you are hearing is none other than your tinnitus.

What is the Ringing in Your Ear?

Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a sound when no sound is actually present. If you are suffering from this you are not alone; almost 20 percent of the population reports some degree of tinnitus. For those suffering from tinnitus in American Fork, some hear these sounds constantly while others only experience them sporadically. The sound can be present in both ears or one ear and can vary in frequency and pitch. In addition to hearing a ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking or hissing, those with tinnitus often also experience fatigue, sleep problems, memory problems, depression and anxiety.

Okay. Now that we understand what tinnitus is, why does it happen?

How Tinnitus Happens?

the why and what of tinnitus

There are two kinds of tinnitus: subjective and objective. Subjective is the most common type and is classified by sounds only you can hear. The second, and much rarer type of tinnitus is called objective. This occurs when your audiologist can actually hear the ringing during an examination.


Tinnitus is typically caused by damage to the inner ear. The inner ear is lined with small hairs. When sound waves enter the ear they cause these hairs to move, which causes an electrical signal to be sent through the auditory nerve to your brain where it is interpreted as sound. If these hairs become damaged they can begin to randomly send electrical impulses. These signals are interpreted by your brain as a ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking or hissing. Age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noise and earwax blockage are all common causes of inner ear damage. This is why hearing protection is so important.

Tinnitus Can be a Side Effect

In addition to inner ear damage, tinnitus is also a common side effect of some disorders. Ménière’s disease is an inner ear disorder categorized by episodes of vertigo and tinnitus.  Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ disorders) or a head or neck injury can cause tinnitus. Acoustic neuroma, a noncancerous tumor that develops on the nerve that runs from your brain to your inner ear, can also cause tinnitus, although usually only in one ear.


Blood vessel disorders have been known to cause tinnitus. Atherosclerosis is a condition that can cause the blood vessels near the ear to become rigid. This causes blood flow to be more forceful and as a result, you can actually hear it. High blood pressure, a head or neck tumor pressing on a blood vessel or irregular blood flow can cause tinnitus.

Tinnitus and Medications

There are more than 200 drugs known to list tinnitus as a side effect. Fortunately, the symptoms will disappear when you stop using the drug. These drugs range from cancer medications to water pills, quinine medications, some antibiotics and certain antidepressants.


In order for your American Fork audiologist to develop a tinnitus management plan, they will need to figure out the cause. If you are ready to finally find relief, contact your American Fork audiologist.


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