10 Symptoms and Complications of Tinnitus


Tinnitus is a bothersome “ringing in the ears.” This common problem affects about one in ten adults. Fortunately, it rarely signifies a serious medical problem.

Tinnitus is actually a symptom of an underlying problem. It may indicate an ear injury, circulatory problem or hearing loss. It usually worsens with age, but it can improve with treatment.

Tinnitus treatment depends on the underlying cause and symptoms. Many treatments merely mask the noise, making the problem less noticeable. Here are ten symptoms and complications that are most associated with tinnitus.

Phantom Noise

Phantom noise is the most common tinnitus symptom. The sound does not actually exist outside the head or ears. It is often described as ringing, buzzing or hissing. It ranges in pitch from a roar to a squeal.

Inner Ear Infection

The phantom noise of tinnitus may be accompanied by ear drainage. Sometimes it includes ear pain. This usually indicates an inner ear infection.

The inner ear is filled with fluids that balance vibrations in the ears. Healthy ears consistently purge and replenish this fluid. Infection causes fluid buildup and blockage. This can intensify tinnitus noise.

Upper Respiratory Infection

Tinnitus may include symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. Even cold symptoms can include an awareness of internal sound. If tinnitus does not improve within a week after the infection, medical attention may be necessary.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure may accompany other tinnitus symptoms if it is the underlying condition. Hypertension, stress and other blood pressure factors can make tinnitus more apparent.

Other blood vessel problems share a link with tinnitus. They include symptoms of atherosclerosis, irregular blood flow and head or neck tumors. This type of tinnitus, called pulsatile tinnitus, is rare.


Some people experience dizziness with tinnitus. This may be a sign of Meniere’s disease, an ear disorder caused by abnormal pressure in the ear. Dizziness with tinnitus may also suggest a neurological problem.


Fatigue is a common tinnitus symptom. Stress-related fatigue can make tinnitus symptoms worse. Rest, relaxation and stress management are good ways to alleviate the symptoms.

Sleep Problems

Severe tinnitus often causes sleep problems. Insomnia is a common symptom in people with distressing levels of tinnitus. Tiredness, fatigue and sleep problems often improve when stress is better managed. This usually improves tinnitus too.

Memory Problems

Problems with memory and concentration are also linked to tinnitus. Cognitive testing has shown a connection between bothersome tinnitus and problems involving memory, attention and concentration. When people focus too much on the noise in their head, it affects functioning in other parts of the brain.


People who are greatly troubled by tinnitus are more likely to have symptoms of mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Severe tinnitus interferes with daily activities and reduces quality of life. This can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Hearing Loss

Tinnitus is sometimes, but not always, linked to hearing loss. Tinnitus with hearing loss usually signifies cochlear damage. This can result from noise exposure, certain medications or the natural aging process.

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