Tinnitus is a condition characterized by the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. The two primary types of tinnitus are subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus is the most common type.

The most common type of tinnitus involves a ringing or noise in the ears with no apparent source, known as subjective or non-rhythmic tinnitus.

In contrast, objective tinnitus, which is usually rhythmic, involves a noise that another person can hear.

This article explains the different types of tinnitus, including their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

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Subjective tinnitus is the most common form of tinnitus, where the individual perceives noise or ringing in the ears without an external source. The sound is typically heard only by the person experiencing it and is not audible to others.


Individuals with subjective tinnitus hear various sounds that can vary in intensity and pitch, including:

  • ringing
  • buzzing
  • hissing
  • whistling
  • roaring

Subjective tinnitus can be constant or come and go at irregular intervals. Symptoms can significantly affect an individual’s quality of life, causing stress, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.


Potential causes of subjective tinnitus include:


Treatment for subjective tinnitus focuses on managing the symptoms and addressing any underlying causes. Some potential treatment options include:

Objective tinnitus is a relatively rare form of tinnitus in which another person can also hear the sound that the affected person hears.


The most distinctive symptom of objective tinnitus is that a healthcare professional can also hear the noise using a stethoscope during an examination.


Potential causes of objective tinnitus include:

  • any abnormal blood vessel development in the head and neck
  • tensor tympani muscle spasm
  • palatal myoclonus — a movement disorder that affects the soft palate
  • patulous eustachian tube dysfunction


Because objective tinnitus usually has an identifiable cause, healthcare professionals can often treat it. However, the most appropriate treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

Treatment for an aneurysm may involve surgical procedures, especially if the aneurysm has burst or if there is a risk it will.

Doctors may recommend medications, lifestyle changes, or physical therapy to treat TMJ disorders.

For tensor tympani muscle spasms, a doctor may recommend medications or surgical procedures.

Some researchers use the terms rhythmic and non-rhythmic to describe types of tinnitus rather than objective and subjective. However, typically subjective tinnitus is non-rhythmic, and objective tinnitus is rhythmic.

Two specific types of rhythmic tinnitus include pulsatile tinnitus and musculature tinnitus. Both are uncommon and involve pulsating sounds in the ear that may synchronize with the affected person’s heartbeat and blood flow.

If there is an underlying cause, treatment may be able to improve tinnitus symptoms.


Healthcare professionals may break down pulsatile tinnitus further into vascular and nonvascular causes. Vascular causes may then fit into venous or arterial categories.

Potential causes in these categories may include:

Additionally, anything that disrupts the smooth flow of blood through blood vessels near the ear can lead to pulsatile tinnitus.

By examining the symptoms they experience, people can determine which type of tinnitus they have. Subjective tinnitus, which often involves a non-rhythmic noise, is the most common type.

Objective tinnitus may involve a rhythmic sound and can occur due to an underlying health condition.

People should speak with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. To diagnose the type of tinnitus a person has, a doctor will carry out a full physical exam.

They may also carry out an audiogram, which is a hearing test to measure hearing loss. This can help a doctor understand the tone and volume of a person’s tinnitus.

People should promptly contact a doctor if they have tinnitus alongside the following symptoms:

If tinnitus is significantly impacting a person’s ability to sleep or causing anxiety, depression, or other emotional distress, they should speak with a healthcare professional for guidance on coping strategies and potential treatment options.

The two main types of tinnitus are objective and subjective, which some healthcare professionals may call rhythmic and non-rhythmic.

If there is an underlying cause, a doctor may be able to treat tinnitus. However, if there is no apparent cause, treatment may focus on relieving symptoms.

People with tinnitus symptoms should contact a healthcare professional for a full diagnosis. A doctor can help a person understand their treatment options.