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What exactly is tinnitus and what causes it?

Tinnitus is best described by “ringing in the ears” or as noise which is not being caused by an external stimulus. Common descriptions of the symptoms include hissing, clicking or whistling sounds when there is no obvious external source for these noises. It can occur in one or both ears and may be constant or intermittent. There are numerous causes for this phenomenon, but more commonly it is due to some acoustical trauma such as listening to music too loud, enduring an explosion in close proximity or direct trauma to the head or ears. Tinnitus can be annoying, distressing and irritating but is generally not life-threatening. The one exception to this rule is if the tinnitus is being caused by a tumor or vascular anomaly within the inner ear or in proximity to the ears within the skull.