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Updated July 09, 2012

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

Tinnitus is a phantom sound in one or both ears -- that is, a sound that is heard but has no external source. It's generally described as "ringing in the ears," but isn't necessarily a ringing sound. Some of the ways tinnitus can sound are:
  • Clicking
  • Pulsing
  • Chirping (such as a cricket's sound)
  • Roaring (like ocean waves)
  • Hissing
  • Buzzing
  • Whistling
  • Ringing

There are many causes of tinnitus, including infection, Meniere's disease, acoustical nerve tumors, compressed blood vessels, aging, ear trauma, and many more, even a build-up of ear wax. It may also be a side effect of medications such as streptomycin (an antibiotic) or trazodone (an antidepressant).

Pronunciation: TIH-nih-tus, tih-NY-tus

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