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What causes subjective tinnitus?

Subjective tinnitus can be caused by noise exposure. It can also be a byproduct of some medications. Tinnitus is sound that occurs somewhere in the ear or the brain that the individual person is able to hear. It sometimes is quite loud, but nobody around the person can hear it. So, it's not a sound emanating from the outside, it's a sound emanating from somewhere in the damaged auditory system or somewhere in the brain. Since it can be caused by some medications, people who begin to get tinnitus after starting a new medication should mention that to their doctor to see if there is an alternative.

Subjective tinnitus—hearing noise in your ears that isn't really there—is believed to be caused when something goes wrong with your ears, auditory nerves or the part of your brain associated with hearing. This can be brought on by age, loud noise, impacted earwax or a hereditary condition called otosclerosis that causes the middle ear bones to grow stiff.

More rarely, a stroke or multiple sclerosis can cause the underlying hearing damage. Subjective tinnitus can also be caused by a head or neck injury, a tumor, an ear or other infection, a problem with the Eustachian tubes in the ears, depression, stress or Meniere's disease (a disease of the inner ear). Some medications can cause tinnitus or make it worse, including large doses of aspirin, diuretics, malaria drugs and some antibiotics and cancer drugs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.