Skip to main content

Why is my left ear ringing? Causes of tinnitus in one ear

Ear ringing causes include hearing loss, loud noises, trauma, earwax, or underlying medical conditions

Ringing in the ears is called tinnitus, which can be distracting and disruptive. Most people characterize it as a high-pitched ringing that may not drown out other noise but often takes center stage when it occurs. Other sounds someone experiencing tinnitus might experience are buzzing, hissing, roaring, clicking, chirping, humming, pulsing, whistling, or whooshing. Several possible health conditions cause tinnitus and can affect anyone, though it is more common in older adults with hearing loss. An estimated 10% to 25% of adults have tinnitus.

Key takeaways:

  • Ear ringing is a common symptom that may be caused by many medical conditions, most often hearing loss.
  • Typically, tinnitus does not require immediate medical attention.
  • Certain causes of tinnitus, such as hearing loss or long-term exposure to loud noises, can cause chronic tinnitus that doesn’t go away.
  • Ringing may require treatment depending on the underlying cause.
  • Treatments vary by cause.
  • Ear ringing can be managed with some natural remedies.

What does it mean when your left ear is ringing?

Tinnitus can happen to both children and adults. 

“Ringing in the ears, more generally referred to as tinnitus, can be due to multiple causes which may be interconnected, though by far the most common cause is hearing loss,” says Scott Shapiro, MD, an ENT physician-surgeon who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the ear and base of the skull. He is a neurotologist and assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (ENT) at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “It can be useful to think of tinnitus as the response of the brain to hearing loss; when the brain notices a loss of hearing, it tries to amplify the sound information it is receiving, but the response is exaggerated and results in extra noise, which we perceive as ringing or sometimes a ‘static’ type of sound,” says Dr. Shapiro. 

Tinnitus can be unnerving to experience and debilitating, especially when trying to concentrate on work or a conversation.

Tinnitus may seem to come and go. 

“It is typically worse when there is little sound in the environment, such as when trying to fall asleep at night, and often is less severe or bothersome during the day when there is more noise in the environment,” says Dr. Shapiro. Some people have tinnitus once and never again, while others always experience it.

There are several types of tinnitus, each with different causes and treatments. Here are some common reasons why your ears ring.

Hearing loss

The common cause of tinnitus, especially among the older population, is hearing loss, though hearing loss can occur to people at any age due to various factors. “Tinnitus caused by hearing loss that comes with getting older usually doesn’t go away on its own,” says Jared Braunstein, MD, a board-certified internist with Medical Offices of Manhattan. People with tinnitus associated with hearing loss are likely to experience chronic tinnitus.

Noise-induced tinnitus

You may have tinnitus after a loud concert or sporting event or if you work in a profession with loud noises, such as dentistry or construction. “If tinnitus is caused by being exposed to loud noises for a long time or over and over again, it may not go away on its own and could turn into a chronic condition,” says Dr. Braunstein. Permanent damage to the hair cells of the inner ear causes chronic tinnitus.

Ear wax buildup or fluid in the ears

Tinnitus is often temporary, especially in younger individuals. “Tinnitus caused by a one-time exposure to loud noise or a short-term problem, like earwax buildup, may go away on its own in a few hours to a few days after the cause has been removed or fixed,” says Dr. Braunstein. 

Fluid in the ears is another temporary cause. 

Kids frequently get earwax buildup and fluid in the ears, which may require treatment or can be resolved independently. 

Underlying medical conditions

There are a host of conditions that can lead to ringing of the ears. These include:

Most of these conditions require medical attention, and some can be serious. If you have a history of these conditions, getting tinnitus checked out right away is worth it.

Trauma to the head or neck

Trauma to the head or neck may affect the auditory system. The ear ringing associated with trauma may be temporary or permanent. All potential head and neck trauma requires medical attention.


Some medications list tinnitus as a side effect, including aspirin and some antibiotics. Ringing will likely subside after the course of medication is through. Though, if the medication is taken all the time, tinnitus may be present all the time as well.

Chronic conditions

Vascular malformation or eustachian tube dysfunction can be congenital and lead to tinnitus. “Some people may have tinnitus that is always there and never goes away,” says Dr. Braunstein.

Lifestyle factors

Smoking, excessively drinking caffeine or alcohol, and stress are all associated with ringing in one or both ears. 

“Tinnitus may be made worse by mental health issues including stress and worry,” says Dr. Braunstein. 

“Tinnitus severity is intimately linked to stress and anxiety, more so than other body symptoms, and may be related to conditions that cause nerve sensitivity or even migraines, though these connections are not yet very well understood,” says Dr. Shapiro. 

Adjusting your lifestyle may improve tinnitus without further treatment. Therapy to address underlying mental health concerns is shown to help tinnitus.

Keep in mind that you may be unable to pinpoint the reason for your tinnitus. 

“It’s worth noting that tinnitus may sometimes arise for no clear reason,” says Dr Braunstein. “It is recommended to see a doctor or an ear, nose, and throat expert (otolaryngologist) for a full examination and proper therapy of tinnitus if it is chronic, unpleasant, or accompanied by other worrying symptoms.” 

Your healthcare provider can help with a treatment plan. 

Should I be worried about tinnitus?

The severity of ear ringing depends on a variety of factors. If there is an underlying medical condition causing it, it may be something to address immediately. 

“Individuals with tinnitus symptoms that last for more than a few days should have a hearing evaluation with an audiologist and likely evaluation by an otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist) pending those results,” says Dr. Shapiro. If it doesn’t resolve on its own, it’s worth looking into.

“Other symptoms that may go along with tinnitus that should prompt medical evaluation include pulsatile sensations in the ears, ear pain, fluid draining from the ear, hearing loss, dizziness, or other neurologic symptoms such as weakness or numbness of the face, headaches, or abnormal eye movements,” says Dr. Shapiro. These additional symptoms could indicate a serious underlying condition or head trauma. 

“Pulsatile tinnitus, commonly characterized as a rhythmic pulsing or whooshing sound, occurs in time with the heartbeat and warrants medical attention since it may indicate vascular problems,” says Dr. Braunstein. 

The ear ringing itself may not cause serious complications beyond lifestyle disruptions, but the possible underlying condition can be dangerous if left unaddressed.

How is the cause of ringing in the left ear diagnosed?

After an initial examination and asking about potential environmental factors, your healthcare provider may refer you to an audiologist or otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat specialist. “They may determine what kind of tinnitus it is, find any underlying reasons, and advise on how to deal with it,” says Dr. Braunstein. “Treatment plans are often made to fit the needs of the person with tinnitus, and they may use more than one method to deal with the unique parts of their condition.” 

Specialists in ears and hearing can tailor treatments more accurately.

How long does ringing last?

The timeline for tinnitus depends greatly on the cause or underlying issue. 

“The reason for the tinnitus determines if it goes away on its own and how long it takes to go away,” says Dr. Braunstein. 

Noise-induced tinnitus may go away in a day, but for more chronic conditions, tinnitus may continue forever.

How to stop ear ringing

There are various methods that may stop ear ringing or alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus. 

“No medications have been proven to help or cure tinnitus symptoms,” says Dr. Shapiro. “Certain vitamins or supplements have been recommended in the past, but none has been proven to be more effective than a placebo when studied closely.” 

Treating the underlying condition is most important.

Living with left ear tinnitus

There are ways to manage and reduce chronic ear ringing without or during treatment. 

“Even though there is no one natural fix for tinnitus that works for everyone, some people find relief from their symptoms through different natural methods,” says Dr. Braunstein. “It’s important to know that how well these treatments work for different people can vary, and you should talk to your doctor about them before trying them.”

Besides stress reduction and living a healthy lifestyle overall, some natural remedies include:

Seek medical advice if ringing isn’t going away

Ear ringing causes include hearing loss, loud noises, trauma, earwax, or underlying medical conditions. The cause of left ear ringing may resolve on its own without treatment. However, if ear ringing continues, worsens, or is accompanied by neurological symptoms like dizziness, it could be a sign of serious health conditions and require treatment. Only your healthcare provider can rule out infection or other serious health conditions. Visit your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment for ear ringing.

What’s next? Additional resources for people with left ear ringing

Test and diagnostics


Scientific studies and clinical trials

More information on related health conditions

Lea este artículo en español aquí.