What is tinnitus? Tinnitus is the sound of ringing in the ears in the absence of audible noise. The sound may mimic noises, such as buzzing, ringing, clicking, hissing, clanging or wheezing. Tinnitus can have a gradual onset or occur abruptly. It is a common occurrence that can range in severity from being a nuisance to being a symptom of a medical emergency that should be evaluated immediately. Tinnitus has no known direct cause, but it can be symptomatic of ear infections, foreign objects in the ear, allergies, high blood pressure, anemia, or a condition known as Meniere’s disease (swelling in part of the inner ear canal, causing dizziness and hearing loss). Alcohol, caffeine, and certain drugs are also contributing factors in some cases of tinnitus. Ninety percent of people with tinnitus have significant sensorineural hearing loss. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if the ringing in your ear begins after a head injury, or if it is accompanied by such symptoms as nausea with or without vomiting and dizziness or vertigo. Seek prompt medical care if you have tinnitus that is persistent, recurrent, or causes you concern.