Tinnitus typically affects your quality of life but is not a cause for concern otherwise. There are times, however, when it may be a symptom of a serious medical problem.

Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, or other noise that you perceive in your ears. It can make falling asleep difficult and interfere with your quality of life. It’s typically a symptom of hearing loss or other hearing-related problem.

In some cases, however, tinnitus may indicate an underlying condition. That means it’s worth contacting a doctor if you experience ringing and other symptoms like headaches or dizziness.

Tinnitus often doesn’t have a cure, but some treatments and strategies can help you relieve symptoms.

Let’s examine more serious conditions that may trigger tinnitus.

For many people, tinnitus is an inescapable annoyance, but is usually not a symptom of a serious problem. For others, it can feel disabling.

A 2023 study suggests that prolonged exposure to loud sounds or persistent ear infections are among the main risk factors for tinnitus.

There are times, though, when tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition. Among them are:

Head or neck trauma

An injury to the neck or head may result in nerve and blood vessel injuries or fractures to the hearing structures. If you have a head or neck injury and don’t feel any obvious complications at first, pay attention if tinnitus or headaches develop days or weeks later.

In some cases, problems may appear well after you experience any trauma.


Tinnitus may be a symptom of certain types of skull-based tumors, which either originate at the base of the cranium or spread there from a cancer that forms elsewhere in the body.

One of the more common skull-based tumors that can cause tinnitus is an acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma), a tumor that forms in the inner ear due to an overgrowth of cells.

Though it’s usually benign (noncancerous), an acoustic neuroma can grow large enough to put pressure on the brain stem or cerebellum and become life threatening.

Other symptoms of acoustic neuroma can include balance problems and hearing loss on the side of the head where it’s located. Treatment options include surgery and radiation.

Blood vessel problems

An amplified sound of blood moving through your blood vessels can cause a type of tinnitus called pulsatile tinnitus. It’s caused when nerves in the ear detect atypical electrical signals moving from the ears to the brain.

One of the most common causes of pulsatile tinnitus high blood pressure that isn’t well managed. Some other potential causes include:

Chronic conditions

Though these aren’t common tinnitus triggers, the following chronic conditions may cause a ringing in the ears, among other symptoms:

The American Tinnitus Association suggests that if you experience tinnitus that lasts for a week or more, or interferes significantly with your sleep, mood, or ability to get through daily activities, you should contact a primary care physician.

A doctor should be able to rule out or initially diagnose possible causes, such as ear canal obstructions or temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD). If they don’t suspect or find an obvious cause, you can contact an audiologist, who specializes in hearing-related disorders.

You should also contact a doctor if you experience the following symptoms along with tinnitus:

  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • jaw or neck pain

You could experience tinnitus for days or years, and it may occur periodically or be a constant source of noise in one or both ears.

If the underlying cause of your tinnitus is managed, such as using a hearing aid or receiving effective treatment for high blood pressure or anemia, then you may find that your tinnitus subsides.

Tinnitus treatment depends on treating the underlying cause.

Treatment involves managing symptoms, often through behavioral therapy that can help you develop coping strategies or help you retrain your brain to process the sounds differently.

Using sound machines to play white noise can also mask the tinnitus.

Learn more about tinnitus treatment.

Tinnitus itself doesn’t affect life span, though it can affect quality of life.

A 2023 report suggests that because tinnitus can be a relentless, hard-to-treat problem, it’s associated with an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and somatic symptom disorders.

These are conditions in which the focus on a particular symptom (or symptoms) can lead to severe distress.

While many people don’t dangerous health problems causing their tinnitus, a medical professional should evaluate it if it affects your quality of life.