Objective tinnitus (OT) is a rare form of tinnitus in which the sounds you hear inside your ear are also audible to others. This is because the sound is generated within your body, usually due to a change in blood flow or muscle spasms inside the ear or soft palate.

Tinnitus is the perception of ringing or other sounds inside one or both ears.

Objective tinnitus may occur due to factors like increased blood flow following intensive exercise. It may also occur due to an underlying problem, such as an issue with the circulatory or musculoskeletal systems.

Let’s go over the symptoms, causes, and risk factors for OT, as well as diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about this condition.

The signs and symptoms of OT may be similar to those of other forms of tinnitus.

People with tinnitus may describe hearing the following sounds inside their ears:

  • ringing
  • buzzing
  • hissing
  • whistling
  • swooshing
  • clicking

According to a 2017 report, people with OT most commonly hear whooshing, pulsing, clicking, or screeching sounds.

The key difference between OT and other forms of tinnitus is that in OT, another person will be able to hear the sound coming from your ear canal.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a person with tinnitus may hear sounds in one or both ears, and these sounds may be:

  • constant, pulsing, or intermittent
  • variable in pitch or loudness
  • bothersome or non-bothersome

The sound you hear inside is generated inside your body. Some potential causes of OT include:

  • strenuous exercise
  • vascular conditions
  • issues with the eustachian tubes, nerves, or muscles inside the ears
  • involuntary muscle contractions of the soft palate at the back of the mouth
  • head or neck injury
  • tumor inside the inner ear

Objective tinnitus is a rare condition, accounting for just 1% of all tinnitus cases.

It can occur as a result of changes in blood flow inside blood vessels close to the ear. These changes can occur as a result of:

  • strenuous exercise
  • pregnancy
  • certain underlying medical conditions

Some conditions that can increase your risk of developing OT include:

  • blood and circulatory issues, such as:
    • anemia
    • arterial bruit, which is the sound of blood flowing through an artery
    • arteriovenous malformation, which is a tangle of arteries and veins
    • atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries
    • benign intracranial hypertension, which is a buildup of pressure around the brain
  • issues with the ear, such as:
  • palatal myoclonus, which is an involuntary, rhythmic movement of the soft palate in the mouth
  • head or neck trauma or injury
  • excess thyroid hormone

OT is a symptom of a condition rather than a condition in itself. As such, OT does not cause complications. However, you may experience complications associated with the condition that’s causing the OT.

It’s recommended you contact a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • regular, persistent, or worsening tinnitus
  • tinnitus that interferes with sleep, concentration, or your mood
  • tinnitus that beats in time with your pulse

Get medical attention right away if you experience:

  • tinnitus following a head injury
  • tinnitus accompanied by:
    • sudden hearing loss
    • facial muscle weakness
    • vertigo

In order to diagnose OT, a doctor may refer you to an audiologist, a healthcare professional who specializes in hearing and balance problems.

An audiologist will ask about your symptoms and medical history, including any medications or supplements you’re taking. They may also ask about your history of noise exposure.

The audiologist will then conduct a thorough hearing assessment to assess the effect tinnitus has on your physical and psychological health and well-being.

Imaging tests may also be necessary to evaluate potential causes of OT. Such tests may include:

There is generally no cure for tinnitus. However, if you develop OT due to an underlying condition, treating that condition may help to resolve the tinnitus. Treatments for OT may include:

  • medications or surgery to treat blood vessel disorders
  • muscle relaxant medications to treat chronic muscular causes
  • surgery to remove a tumor

General tinnitus management strategies include:

Objective tinnitus is often a symptom of an underlying condition, such as a vascular condition or a musculoskeletal issue. Depending on the exact cause, it may not be possible to prevent OT.

However, vascular diseases are a significant risk factor for OT, and there are plenty of steps you can take to help support your vascular health. These include:

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about OT.

Is objective tinnitus rare?

Objective tinnitus is rare. It accounts for only 1% of all cases of tinnitus.

Is objective tinnitus dangerous?

Objective tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition. The condition causing it may be dangerous. If you experience symptoms of OT, see a doctor to determine the cause.

What does objective tinnitus sound like?

A person with OT may perceive the following sounds inside one or both ears:

  • ringing
  • buzzing
  • hissing
  • whistling
  • swooshing
  • clicking

Is objective tinnitus curable?

Tinnitus is generally not curable, but a 2017 report explains that treating the underlying cause of OT may cure the condition in some cases.

People with OT most commonly perceive pulsing, whooshing, or screeching sounds in one or both ears. If you experience tinnitus symptoms, speak with a doctor to determine the cause and begin treatment.

Because OT is often the result of an underlying health issue, treating the issue can sometimes cure the OT. If a cure is not possible, treatments are available to help manage symptoms.