RadInfo Logo Home


Tinnitus is a perceived sound in a person's ears that only they can hear, without an identifiable external source. The noise can be intermittent or continuous. Tinnitus is common and occurs in 10% of people.

There are two types of tinnitus:

  • Pulsatile tinnitus: sound occurring with the person's heartbeat; usually from a problem in the blood vessel system
  • Nonpulsatile tinnitus: most common type, often described as ringing, buzzing, or clicking

If no findings are seen on a physical examination of a person's ears, then the doctor may order imaging tests.

If pulsitile tinnitus is suspected, a CT angiography (CTA) of the head, CTA of the head and neck, or CT of the temporal bone without intravenous (IV) contrast is usually appropriate. MRI or MR angiogram of the head, with and without IV contrast, is also usually appropriate. MR angiogram of the head without IV contrast, MR venography with and without IV contrast, arteriography of the head and neck, ultrasound of the carotid arteries, or CT of the temporal bone with IV contrast may be appropriate.

If nonpulsatile tinnitus is suspected, and only in one ear, MRI of the head and ear canals with and without IV contrast is usually appropriate. MRI of the head without IV contrast, or CT of the temporal bone with or without IV contrast, or CTA of the head with IV contrast may be appropriate.

If the individual has nonpulsatile tinnitus in both ears, imaging tests are not usually appropriate. If there is hearing loss or head trauma associated with the tinnitus, following Appropriateness Criteria for those conditions is recommended.

This page was reviewed on December, 15, 2021

Sponsored By

Please note

RadiologyInfo.org is not a medical facility. Please contact your physician with specific medical questions or for a referral to a radiologist or other physician. To locate a medical imaging or radiation oncology provider in your community, you can search the ACR-accredited facilities database.

This website does not provide cost information. The costs for specific medical imaging tests, treatments and procedures may vary by geographic region. Discuss the fees associated with your prescribed procedure with your doctor, the medical facility staff and/or your insurance provider to get a better understanding of the possible charges you will incur.

Web page review process: This Web page is reviewed regularly by a physician with expertise in the medical area presented and is further reviewed by committees from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and the American College of Radiology (ACR), comprising physicians with expertise in several radiologic areas.

Outside links: For the convenience of our users, RadiologyInfo.org provides links to relevant websites. RadiologyInfo.org, RSNA and ACR are not responsible for the content contained on the web pages found at these links.