(redirected from Ringing in the ears)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.


the hearing of sounds in the absence of any external sound, also known as ringing in the ears. The sounds may be perceived as hissing, whistling, buzzing, swooshing, roaring, or clicking in addition to ringing; in rare cases indistinct voices or music may be heard. The sounds may be high or low, may be loud or quiet, and may come and go or be present all the time; they may be heard in one ear or both. Tinnitus, which is often worse when things are quiet, is a symptom of a variety of physiological conditions and is also associated with taking certain medications. Most typically it is an auditory and neurological response to hearing loss cause by loud noise, but there are many other causes, and in rare cases it may be caused by sounds produced by the circulation of the blood in the blood vessels or another physiological process.

Tinnitus usually is not a symptom of something serious, but many people find the sounds bothersome, and it may produce fatigue, stress, problems with sleep, concentration, or memory, and depression or anxiety, becoming debilitating for some sufferers. Tinnitus may be treatable if it is caused by an underlying condition that can be corrected or a medication for which there is an alternative, but there is no effective drug treatment for tinnitus itself. In other cases, a hearing aid or a machine or masking device that produces white noise may be helpful. Counseling with cognitive behavioral therapy to accustom patients to the sounds and teach coping techniques can reduce the stress and the associated problems some people experience.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a noise in the ears, a sensation arising in the absence of external acoustic stimuli. Tinnitus can occur in one ear or both ears.

Physiological tinnitus sometimes occurs under conditions of complete silence; it is due to the sensation of blood flowing in the small capillaries of the inner ear. In contrast, pathological tinnitus, usually accompanied by impairment of hearing, is caused by diseases of the middle or inner ear or auditory nerve, by intoxication with an industrial chemical (mercury, arsenic, phosphorus, lead), or by some drugs. Differences in the intensity and nature of the noise (buzzing, ringing, whistling) are diagnostic clues.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A ringing, roaring, or hissing sound in one or both ears.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
A number of products, including Ring Relief from TRP Co., promise relief of ringing in the ears. Tinnitus is a symptom that can be caused by a host of problems, ranging from ear infections and ear wax buildup to nasal allergies.
I have suffered from ringing in the ears for years.
Damage can also result in tinnitus or a persistent ringing in the ears. This can range in severity from a mild case that is noticeable only when it is quiet to a ringing that even interferes with one's ability to sleep.
Over 50 million people in America have suffered from tinnitus, a constant and debilitating ringing in the ears. About 10% of the elderly suffer tinnitus so severe it disrupts their lives, producing depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and other emotional problems.
The result: hearing loss ranging from tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears, to total deafness--for which there is no cure.
The chronic sensation of loud ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, plagues roughly 12 million people in the United States, including about 10 percent of the elderly.