Inflammation from an ear infection is just one of the causes of tinnitus. At-home and clinical treatment can typically resolve the symptoms.

Tinnitus happens when you experience a sound like ringing, hissing, or roaring in your ears.

Tinnitus has a number of causes — including inner ear infections. Fluid buildup or inflammation in the inner ear canal, as well as damage to the eardrum by infectious bacteria or viruses, can result in tinnitus.

Read on to learn more about how ear infections can cause tinnitus, what symptoms to watch out for, and how to treat tinnitus related to ear infections.

Ear infections can cause swelling in the tube that leads from your outer ear to your eardrum (tympanic membrane) — known as your ear canal.

Swelling can cause an earwax blockage or keep fluids from being able to naturally drain from your ear. As fluids and earwax build up, they can put pressure on your eardrum.

Your eardrum normally helps bring sound waves from the ear into the inner ear anatomy that transmits sound signals to your brain to process and interpret. However, too much pressure on your eardrum can result in a constant ringing sound that happens with tinnitus.

Ear infections that aren’t treated quickly can also cause damage to your eardrum and other inner ear structures. Eardrum damage can result in long-term or permanent tinnitus.

Ear infections happen when your ear canal gets infected by bacteria or a virus. Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria is one of the most common causes of ear infections — other common causes include:

The most common symptom of tinnitus is constant ringing in your ears — this sound can also resemble a:

  • hiss
  • buzz
  • roar
  • click
  • whistle

The sound might change when you move your head or release pressure in your head by blowing your nose.

With ear infection-related tinnitus, you might notice other symptoms along with ringing in your ears, such as:

More severe ear infections might also cause:

Treating an ear infection that’s causing tinnitus can help reduce or stop your tinnitus symptoms. Mild ear infections are usually easy to treat and heal quickly.

Some common methods for treating an ear infection include:

  • applying a warm cloth over your outer ear
  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • using OTC ear drops to reduce pain and swelling or fight off bacterial infections
  • taking OTC decongestants to relieve ear pressure, including pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
  • reducing pressure on your ear by not sleeping on it or wearing anything that can push on your ear, such as earphones or helmets

More severe ear infections might require medical treatment, including prescription ear drops or antibiotics. In rare cases, a healthcare professional might recommend:

Long-term tinnitus that doesn’t go away on its own may need additional treatment to reduce symptoms, including:

Tinnitus from a mild ear infection usually goes away after a few weeks.

Tinnitus from a severe infection, especially if the eardrum was damaged, may last for months before it goes away.

In some cases, you might have permanent tinnitus and hearing loss from severe or untreated ear infections.

You may want to contact an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor, or ENT) or an audiologist for diagnosis and treatment of tinnitus that doesn’t go away after treating an ear infection.

Tinnitus can be caused by ear infections — this can happen because of fluid buildup in your ear putting pressure on your eardrum as well as from damage to your eardrum from infectious bacteria or viruses.

Tinnitus caused by mild ear infections usually goes away after your infection is treated. However, severe or untreated ear infections may cause long-term or permanent tinnitus.

Contact a doctor right away if you notice tinnitus along with the symptoms of an ear infection.