DEAR MAYO CLINIC: For the past several months I have had a high-pitched ringing in my ears. It comes and goes, but lately it seems to happen more frequently. My doctor said that it is tinnitus and is quite common, but I am concerned and want to know what could have caused it. Could it be related to stress? Does it ever lead to hearing loss?
ANSWER: Tinnitus involves hearing noise in one or both ears that is not caused by an external sound. Tinnitus is common, but it is not a condition on its own. Rather, it is a symptom of another underlying condition.
The noise of tinnitus often sounds like a ringing in the ears, but it can also be buzzing, clicking, roaring or hissing. The noise may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal. In some cases, the sound can be so loud that it interferes with your ability to concentrate or to hear actual sound. Tinnitus may be present all the time, or it may come and go.