Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Tinnitus

In most cases, the cause of tinnitus is damage to the ear and auditory system.

Temporary tinnitus can be caused by blockages in the middle ear, including:

  • Wax
  • Congestion due to colds or allergies
  • Excessive hair
  • Foreign objects

Occasionally these items can damage the eardrum, causing permanent tinnitus.

Tinnitus can also be caused by medications, including certain:

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Aspirin
  • Antibiotics
  • Diuretics
  • Quinine drugs
  • Chemotherapy drugs

Tinnitus can be a symptom of a number of conditions, including:

Diagnosing tinnitus

The type of sound associated with your tinnitus can help your physician determine its cause. Another technique is to examine how various movements impact the sound you hear.

Diagnostic tests include:

  • Hearing test: A traditional hearing test is used to determine if you are experiencing hearing loss.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: This test combines X-ray and computer technology to produce detailed cross-sectional images.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: This test creates detailed images using a large magnet, a computer and radiofrequencies. Unlike computed tomography (CT or CAT) scans or X-rays, MRI does not use radiation.

Diagnostic Tests

Related Resources

American Tinnitus Association*

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