Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ear or head, when no external source of sound exists. Tinnitus can be perceived in one or both ears, and it can affect people of all ages. It is often described as "ringing" in the ear, but others have reported buzzing, humming, roaring, rushing, and even colorful descriptions such as "crickets in the ears."
Tinnitus is not a disease, but rather a symptom which can be associated with an underlying problem. There are many causes of tinnitus. Some common and treatable causes include: ear infection, fluid in the middle ear, and ear canal obstruction with wax. In addition, high doses of aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medications can cause a reversible form of tinnitus.
More often, tinnitus is a chronic problem caused by damage to the cochlea, the organ of hearing. For this reason, it is often seen in conjunction with hearing loss.
Although tinnitus can affect people of any age, the damage to the cochlea is often age-related. Other causes of cochlear damage include chronic loud noise exposure, severe infection in the ear or brain, and medication side effects.
A few known medications which cause tinnitus include: aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), some diuretics, quinidine, some anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs, and some intravenous antibiotics.
Tumors of the auditory (hearing) nerve are rare causes of tinnitus.