Tinnitus in one ear, also called unilateral tinnitus, is often due to pressure or injury in an ear canal or eardrum. It has many possible causes.

Tinnitus is when you hear a ringing in your ears. About 11.2% of people in the United States have tinnitus.

Read on to learn about the symptoms of tinnitus in one ear, the most common causes, and how to get tinnitus diagnosed and treated.

The most common symptom of unilateral tinnitus is a constant ringing, hissing, or roaring in one of your ears. Noise in your environment might also trigger tinnitus or make your symptoms worse.

Here are the most common causes of tinnitus in one ear only.

Ear wax impaction

Earwax impaction (or blockage) happens when earwax gets tightly packed or dried out in your ear canal. It’s often due to pushing earwax too deeply into the ear with objects like cotton swabs.

You can prevent earwax impaction by not using cotton swabs to clean your ears.

Acoustic trauma or chronic noise exposure

Acoustic trauma happens when your eardrum is injured by loud noises. It can affect one or both ears. You might be at high risk if you’re regularly exposed to loud noises.

Wearing earplugs or ear protection may help reduce your risk of tinnitus.


A cholesteatoma is a growth that happens behind your eardrum. Some people are born with the growths, which develop into cholesteatomas over time. But frequent infections might also increase your risk of cholesteatomas.

You can prevent cholesteatomas by quickly treating ear infections.


Otosclerosis happens when bones and structures in your ear change shape atypically over time. Injuries, infections, or pregnancy can increase your risk of this condition. It can also run in families.

There’s no clear way to prevent otosclerosis.

Chronic otitis media (ear infection)

Chronic ear infections (otitis media) can cause swelling that traps fluid in the middle ear or causes damage to the eardrum. Getting colds, having allergies, or getting liquid trapped in your ears can cause chronic otitis media.

You can treat colds and allergies quickly to help prevent ear infections.

Ruptured eardrum

Tinnitus can happen when an ear infection or trauma ruptures your eardrum.

Meniere disease

Meniere disease is when you have an atypical amount of fluid in your inner ear. Besides tinnitus, you’re likely to experience hearing loss and vertigo. It has no known cause, though experts believe that autoimmune conditions, allergies, and genetics may play a role.

Semicircular canal dehiscence

Semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome (SCDS) is when a bony canal in your inner ear is too thin or doesn’t close. You might be born with this condition or get it from an injury or infection.

Other symptoms may include:

  • pressure-induced vertigo
  • heart changes
  • autophony, or the perception that your voice is too loud or echoing in your ears

Treating ear infections and avoiding head injuries may prevent SCDS.

Brain stem infarction

A brain stem infarction (stroke) happens when oxygen to your brain stem is cut off, causing tissues in your brain stem to die.

Your risk of stroke increases as you get older, especially if you have high blood pressure or atherosclerosis.

You may potentially prevent strokes by:

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a nervous system condition that can cause fatigue, difficulty moving, and other symptoms, like tinnitus. Having obesity, smoking, and having autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes can increase your risk.

You can’t prevent MS, but getting it diagnosed and treated early can help you manage your symptoms.

Brain tumor

A brain tumor can increase the pressure in your head and ears. Tinnitus might affect the ear closest to where the tumor is growing, though it might also affect both ears.

Not all brain tumors are cancerous. But even benign brain tumors can affect how your brain functions and increase head pressure. They can also lead to vascular lesions, like:

  • narrowing of a passage (stenosis)
  • aneurysm
  • atypical vessels

Limiting your exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation may help prevent brain tumors.

Contact a doctor if you have tinnitus in one ear that’s disruptive to your life or affects your hearing. Seek immediate medical help if you notice symptoms like headaches, vision loss, or hearing loss.

A doctor may also refer you to a specialist for testing, such as an otolaryngologist or cardiologist. A doctor can also use X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, or an audiogram to examine the structures inside your ear or head.

Here are the medical treatments and home remedies that might help you treat tinnitus in one ear only.

Medical treatment

Some medical treatments for the causes of tinnitus in one ear can include:

Home remedies

Here are some home remedies that might help treat tinnitus in one ear:

Can tinnitus go away?

Tinnitus can go away if you treat the underlying cause. But tinnitus that occurs due to injury or severe health issues might be difficult to treat.

Tinnitus can affect one or both ears. It’s best to contact a doctor if you have tinnitus and other symptoms that affect your overall health.