Tinnitus describes internal sounds in your ear rather than sounds with an external source. There are several different types of tinnitus, each with its own causes and treatment options.

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Tinnitus is a common condition where you may experience ringing or buzzing in your ears. If you receive a tinnitus diagnosis, a doctor may consider one of the following three types: subjective, objective, or somatic.

Tinnitus affects between 10% and 25% of adults, but children can also develop this condition. Depending on the type and severity, tinnitus may be short term, or it may become a chronic condition.

Learn more about the similarities and differences of these types of tinnitus, including the symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

Subjective tinnitus describes tinnitus where you can hear a ringing or buzzing sound but others cannot. Most cases of tinnitus are subjective.

Noise trauma is considered the most common cause of subjective tinnitus. This is often the case if you work in a noisy environment, such as construction or a concert venue.

Other possible causes of subjective tinnitus include:

Aside from treating any underlying medical condition contributing to tinnitus, a doctor may also recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as well as noise masking and stress reduction techniques. Hearing aids can help if a doctor finds you have hearing loss.

There’s currently no medication available that can treat any form of tinnitus, including subjective forms. However, a doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants to help alleviate mental health side effects and help you sleep better.

Overall, CBT has been shown to improve quality of life more than any other treatment method used for tinnitus.

Objective tinnitus is a less common type of tinnitus caused by sounds generated inside the body. Unlike subjective tinnitus, not only can you hear the accompanying noises in your ears, but so can a doctor during an exam with a stethoscope.

The causes of objective tinnitus are often muscular and vascular related. Examples may include an aneurysm, muscle spasms, or temporomandibular joint disease. Objective tinnitus may also develop during intense exercise or pregnancy due to blood pressure changes.

The treatment options for objective tinnitus are similar to those of subjective forms. Treating this type of tinnitus may also involve managing the underlying cause. For example, muscle relaxers and Botox may help treat muscle spasms that contribute to objective tinnitus.

When you have tinnitus that worsens with body movement, you may have somatic tinnitus, also called somatosensory tinnitus.

This condition is considered a subtype of subjective tinnitus. It’s thought that signals sent from the cervical spine and jaw change the way you perceive tinnitus symptoms.

Head or neck injuries may also contribute to somatic tinnitus.

In addition to traditional subjective tinnitus symptoms, somatic forms may cause:

  • jaw pain
  • neck or shoulder pain
  • headaches, which often occur before tinnitus
  • tinnitus that worsens with poor posture
  • dental problems
  • teeth clenching
  • tenderness in the face

While a doctor may recommend similar treatments as subjective tinnitus, somatic forms may also benefit from the addition of other therapies, such as:

A doctor may diagnose tinnitus with a combination of the following:

  • a physical exam, which includes a look inside your ear canal to see if there are any blockages
  • listening to the veins and arteries around your ear via a stethoscope
  • a review of your medical history, including any medications you’re taking
  • certain blood tests to see whether an underlying medical issue may be contributing to your symptoms, such as a thyroid condition, an autoimmune disease, or diabetes
  • imaging tests, such as ultrasound or MRI scans
  • an audiogram to measure possible hearing loss

If you suspect you may have tinnitus, it’s important to speak with a doctor first. They can determine whether there may be underlying issues blocking your ear canal and causing tinnitus, such as earwax buildup.

In some cases, removing earwax or fluid stuck in your ear canal may resolve the problem.

However, if symptoms persist, you may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor, also called an otolaryngologist. An audiologist may also be able to perform hearing tests and help treat tinnitus.

What is the most common tinnitus?

The most common form of tinnitus is subjective tinnitus, where you can hear a ringing or buzzing sound but others cannot.

What is the rare form of tinnitus?

Pulsatile tinnitus is a rare form of tinnitus. It can cause people to hear rhythmical noises, such as whooshing or thumping. The pace often matches the heartbeat.

Does tinnitus ever go away?

While there is currently no cure for tinnitus, it may improve or go away over time. Several treatment methods can help you manage symptoms so they become less noticeable.

Tinnitus is a common condition that may become chronic. There are three different types of tinnitus: subjective, objective, and somatic. Each type can differ in its causes and treatment options.

If you have tinnitus, consider speaking with a doctor about new and emerging treatments to see if they’re appropriate for you. They can also make specific recommendations based on the type of tinnitus you have.