National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

It is possible that the main title of the report Tinnitus is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.


  • Subjective Tinnitus
  • Objective Tinnitus
  • Non-rhythmic Tinnitus
  • Rhythmic Tinnitus

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Tinnitus is a common condition characterized by the perception or sensation of sound even though there is no identifiable source for the sound. Tinnitus is often referred to as a "ringing in the ears." The sounds associated with tinnitus have also been described as hissing, chirping, crickets, whooshing, or roaring sounds that can affect one or both ears. Tinnitus is generally broken down into two types: subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus is very common and is defined as a sound that is audible only to the person with tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is a purely electrochemical phenomenon and cannot be heard by an outside observer no matter how hard they try. Objective tinnitus, which is relatively rare, is defined as a sound that arises from an "objective" source, such as mechanical defect or a specific sound source, and can be heard by an outside observer. The sounds from objective tinnitus occur somewhere within the body and reach the ears by conduction through various body tissues. Objective tinnitus is usually caused by disorders affecting the blood vessels (vascular system), muscles (muscular system) or certain nerves (neurological system).

The majority of cases of tinnitus are subjective. Objective tinnitus is far less common. However, a diagnosis of objective tinnitus is tied to how hard and well the objective (outside) listener tries to hear the sound in question. Because of this problem, some clinicians now simply refer to tinnitus as either rhythmic or non-rhythmic. Generally, rhythmic tinnitus correlates with objective tinnitus and non-rhythmic tinnitus correlates with subjective tinnitus. Specific forms of tinnitus such as pulsatile tinnitus and muscular tinnitus, which are forms of rhythmic tinnitus, are relatively rare. Pulsatile tinnitus may also be known as pulse-synchronous tinnitus. Properly identifying and distinguishing these less common forms of tinnitus is important because the underlying cause of pulsatile or muscular tinnitus can often be identified and treated.


Vestibular Disorders Association
5018 NE 15th Ave
Portland, OR 97211
Tel: (503)229-7705
Fax: (503)229-8064
Tel: (800)837-8428
Email: veda@vestibular.org
Internet: http://www.vestibular.org

American Tinnitus Association
522 S.W. Fifth Avenue Suite 825
Portland, OR 97207
United States
Tel: (503)248-9985
Fax: (503)248-0024
Tel: (800)634-8978
Email: tinnitus@ata.org
Internet: http://www.ata.org

Better Hearing Institute
1444 I Street NW
Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
United States
Tel: (202)449-1100
Fax: (703)684-6048
Tel: (800)327-9355
Email: mail@betterhearing.org
Internet: http://www.betterhearing.org

American Hearing Research Foundation
310 W. Lake St.
Suite 111
Elmhurst, IL 60126
Tel: (630)617-5079
Fax: (630)563-9181
Email: sparmet@american-hearing.org
Internet: http://www.american-hearing.org/

NIH/National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
31 Center Drive, MSC 2320
Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Tel: (301)402-0900
Fax: (301)907-8830
Tel: (800)241-1044
TDD: (800)241-1105
Email: nidcdinfo@nidcd.nih.gov
Internet: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov

American Academy of Audiology
11730 Plaza America Drive, Suite 300
Reston, VA 20190
Tel: (703)790-8466
Fax: (703)790-8631
Tel: (800)222-2336
Email: infoaud@audiology.org
Internet: http://www.audiology.org

Hearing Loss Association of America
7910 Woodmont Avenue
Suite 1200
Bethesda, MD 20814
Tel: (301)657-2248
Fax: (301)913-9413
Email: info@hearingloss.org
Internet: http://www.hearingloss.org

For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). A copy of the complete report can be downloaded free from the NORD website for registered users. The complete report contains additional information including symptoms, causes, affected population, related disorders, standard and investigational therapies (if available), and references from medical literature. For a full-text version of this topic, go to www.rarediseases.org and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only. NORD recommends that affected individuals seek the advice or counsel of their own personal physicians.

It is possible that the title of this topic is not the name you selected. Please check the Synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and Disorder Subdivision(s) covered by this report

This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

For additional information and assistance about rare disorders, please contact the National Organization for Rare Disorders at P.O. Box 1968, Danbury, CT 06813-1968; phone (203) 744-0100; web site www.rarediseases.org or email orphan@rarediseases.org

Last Updated:  1/28/2014
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