While the blanket term "ringing in the ear" gives the impression that everyone experiences the condition the same way, in reality, tinnitus has many different types. Depending on the type, treatment may be different. 

For some people, tinnitus is barely noticeable, while it can become almost debilitating for others. Although scientists have a good understanding of the types and possible causes of tinnitus, there is no known cure for it.
Before we go into detail about the various tinnitus types, let's touch on what causes tinnitus in the first place. 

What are the most common causes of tinnitus?

Doctors do not know with certainty what causes the sensations of ringing in the ear. This uncertainty is why it is important to get your ears checked by a hearing professional. For instance, an audiologist can determine if your auditory system is damaged or if there are other possible causes for your hearing troubles. 
Some of the most common causes are:  
  • Earwax buildup
  • Certain prescription drugs
  • Exposure to excessively loud noise
  • Jaw joint dysfunction (TMJ)
  • Chronic neck muscle strain
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • A tumor that creates pressure on the arteries in the neck and head
The main types of tinnitus include subjective tinnitus, objective tinnitus, somatic, sensory and neurological tinnitus. 
Subjective tinnitus
Of all the different types, this is the most common form. It is generally a consequence of loud noise exposure. If you have subjective tinnitus, you are the only person who can hear the sounds. 

In mild cases, subjective tinnitus disappears quickly. For some, it comes and goes with varying lengths and intensities. Severe cases can last from three months to twelve months, sometimes even longer. When the internal noises overpower external sounds, your ability to concentrate can suffer.  

Audiologists often recommend hearing aids as a means to play calming noise. Doing this can help distract from the hissing, buzzing, and ringing sounds.
Objective tinnitus
Objective tinnitus affects much fewer people. It is a rare form caused by vascular deformities or involuntary muscle contractions. The good news is that when doctors manage to treat the underlying cause, the sounds in the ear go away. 

The big difference between subjective and objective tinnitus is that the objective form can be heard by people other than the affected person. Furthermore, this is the only type that can potentially be fixed in its entirety. 
Somatic tinnitus
Somatic tinnitus is connected to the sensory system. Scientists believe this type is caused or worsened by sensory system problems.
Neurological tinnitus
Meniere's disease or similar conditions affecting the brain's auditory functions are typically responsible for neurological tinnitus.
Sensory tinnitus
Sensory tinnitus is a subcategory of subjective tinnitus. If you have a damaged auditory system, you may develop sensory tinnitus. Although doctors do not know what causes harm to the auditory system, it is possible to lessen its adverse effect on quality of life with the right strategies. 

Other types of tinnitus

Pulsatile tinnitus
This type of ear ringing is unique in the sense that it aligns with the heartbeat. One of the most common reasons for its development is a change in blood flow to the vessels located near the ears. Another possible cause is increased awareness of blood flow to the ear. 
Low-frequency tinnitus
The most frustrating aspect of this form is that people suffering from it can't tell if the sound they hear originates internally or externally. The sounds they hear are similar to constant rumbling, humming, murmuring, and deep droning. Living with this form is quite challenging and can take a toll on sufferers' quality of life. 
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not use the information as a substitute for, nor should it replace, professional medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.