Ever been left with a persistent buzzing, hissing or ringing in your ears after an ear infection? This is tinnitus.
Dr Edmund Farrar

Dr Edmund Farrar

Medically Reviewed by
Co-Founder & CEO of Oto

Can an Ear Infection Cause Tinnitus? Everything You Need to Know


Have you ever been left with a persistent buzzing, hissing or ringing in your ears after an ear infection? It seems like an echo that refuses to quieten, one that only you can hear. This is tinnitus – an unexpected and often challenging aftermath of an ear infection.

You might be surprised to learn that you are not alone. Up to 30% of people will experience tinnitus at some point in their lives, with ear infections being a common precursor [1]. But instead of seeing this as an ongoing battle, what if we explored a different route? Imagine learning to understand and accept tinnitus, transforming it from a disturbing distraction into mere background noise.

Throughout this article, we aim to guide you on this journey. We will show you how you can tune out or 'habituate' to this new sound, helping you push tinnitus to the back of your mind and focus on life's brighter moments. Let this article be your first step toward understanding, calm and peace.

How Can You Develop Tinnitus from an Ear Infection?

An ear infection occurs when a bacterial or viral attack inflames your middle ear, the air-filled space containing the tiny vibrating bones of the ear. The resulting inflammation and build-up of fluid can cause unpleasant symptoms, including pain, temporary hearing loss and, occasionally, tinnitus. But how does this happen?

The root of the connection between ear infections and tinnitus lies within the intricate structures of our hearing system. When an infection sets in, the associated inflammation can cause damage to the delicate inner ear structures, specifically the hair cells of the cochlea – our body's natural sound sensors. These hair cells capture the vibrations of sound and convert them into nerve signals that our brain interprets as sound.

When these hair cells are damaged, the transmission of sound signals can become disrupted, sometimes resulting in the perception of sound where there is none – tinnitus.

A study published in the International Journal of Audiology in 2018 estimated that as many as 69% of individuals with acute otitis media (a type of middle ear infection) reported experiencing tinnitus [2]. It's a stark reminder that this is an issue affecting a considerable number of people.

How Long Does Ringing Last After an Ear Infection?

The persistence of tinnitus after an ear infection is a highly individual experience. For some, the ringing might subside in a few weeks as the inflammation from the infection diminishes, and the ear heals. Others may continue to notice their tinnitus for months or even years in rare cases.

Several factors can affect the length of time the tinnitus lasts. These include:

  • The severity of the original infection
  • Individual healing rates
  • How well the person can habituate to the noise.

A 2016 study found that, for some individuals, even once the physical remnants of the ear infection have cleared, the changes in neural pathways in the brain affected by the infection may still persist [3]. This highlights the importance of understanding and accepting tinnitus and working towards habituation rather than solely focusing on the physical healing of the ear.

Tinnitus and Ear Infection: The Process of Habituation

Habituation can be a powerful tool in navigating the experience of tinnitus after an ear infection. It's a psychological process wherein repeated exposure to a stimulus – in this case, the phantom sound of tinnitus – leads to a decreased reaction to it. But how does habituation work, and how can we use it to reduce the impact of tinnitus on our daily lives?

Think of the sensation of your clothes against your skin – when you first put them on, you're aware of them. Yet, over time, you no longer notice this sensation. This is habituation in action.

In the context of tinnitus, habituation involves shifting the ringing or buzzing from the forefront of your consciousness to the background, enabling you to tune it out and focus on other things. This doesn't mean the tinnitus is gone; rather, your brain has learned to assign it a lower priority.

A 2017 study found that the process of habituation could lead to individuals noticing their tinnitus less, with many even forgetting about it for extended periods [4].

Discover how to tune out tinnitus with our free webinar

Thanks for signing up! Please check your inbox to access the course.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
You don’t just have to “live with it"
Why we hear tinnitus
How it feels to tune it out
Clinically proven methods that really work

Coping with Tinnitus after an Ear Infection

Coping with tinnitus after an ear infection can be challenging. Developing a personalised strategy that helps you recognise the presence of tinnitus and acknowledge it as a current part of your life's soundscape can go a long way in helping you navigate the experience.

Social Support

Navigating through the tinnitus journey can be less daunting when you have support. This can come from friends and family who empathise with your situation or from others going through similar challenges. Joining a tinnitus support group, either in-person or online, can provide an empathetic space for sharing experiences, coping strategies and encouragement.


One of the most effective ways to cope with tinnitus is to engage in activities that capture your attention. This helps to distract your mind from the ringing or buzzing in your ears, thereby reducing your awareness of tinnitus. Whether immersing yourself in a good book, taking a walk in nature or pursuing a hobby, keeping your mind occupied can help you notice your tinnitus less.


Good physical health can support your journey toward habituation. Regular exercise, a balanced diet and maintaining good sleep hygiene can contribute to overall well-being, which in turn can help you manage the impact of tinnitus better. Mindfulness exercises and relaxation techniques can also be beneficial, as they can soothe the emotional response to tinnitus.


Remember, patience is key in this journey. There will be ups and downs, moments where you notice your tinnitus less, and others where it may seem more prominent. Coping with tinnitus is not about a swift fix but about learning to live without it causing significant disruption to your life.

Embracing Life with Tinnitus: The Oto Approach

At Oto, we're committed to transforming how you interact with tinnitus. Our mobile app, designed by those who understand tinnitus personally and professionally, is your interactive guide to reducing its impact on your life.

Oto offers a digital program that presents a revolutionary approach to living with tinnitus. Combining the expertise of ENT specialists, doctors, audiologists and researchers, we focus on empowering you to notice your tinnitus less. Through expertly crafted content, the app supports better sleep, enhances focus and promotes learning – right at your fingertips.

The Oto app isn't just about providing tools; it's about understanding your needs. We also offer a 1-1 program that merges expert video coaching sessions with the features of our mobile app. This personalised service caters to your individual requirements, bringing you one step closer to habituation.

Our unique approach harnesses the power of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a method demonstrated to be effective in managing tinnitus. We don't focus on sound masks or hardware; instead, we provide an empathetic space to help you navigate the daily challenges tinnitus might pose.

From sleep-disrupting tinnitus to its intrusions in work and relationships, Oto stands ready to support you. The app's easy-to-use design and success stories from other users provide a sense of community and shared experiences.

Ready to take the first step towards a life where tinnitus takes a back seat? Download the Oto app on your iOS or Android device today and start your journey towards a less disrupted, more harmonious life.


Tinnitus following an ear infection can initially feel like an unsettling disruption that intrudes on your daily life. However, understanding and accepting this phenomenon is the first step towards habituation. By getting access to science-based help, employing distraction techniques, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, seeking social support and using soothing strategies, you can gradually reduce your awareness of tinnitus. 

To support you on this journey, the Oto app is here to help. Oto provides evidence-based strategies that can help you cope with tinnitus, along with a community that understands your experience. To get started on the path towards habituation, download the Oto app today and discover how it can help you tune out tinnitus and tune back into life.


1. McCormack, A., Edmondson-Jones, M., Fortnum, H., Dawes, P., Middleton, H., Munro, K. J., & Moore, D. R. (2013, August 31). The prevalence of tinnitus and the relationship with neuroticism in a middle-aged UK population. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022399913003358 

2. Mahboubi MD, MPH, H., Oliaei MD, S., Kiumehr MD, S., Dwabe, S., & Djalilian MD, H. R. (2013, April 18). The prevalence and characteristics of tinnitus ... - Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/lary.24015 

3. Shore, S. E., Roberts, L. E., & Langguth, B. (2016, February 12). Maladaptive plasticity in tinnitus - triggers, mechanisms and treatment. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/nrneurol.2016.12 

4. Tyler, R., Cacace, A., Stocking, C., Tarver, B., Engineer, N., Martin, J., Deshpande, A., Stecker, N., Pereira, M., Kilgard, M., Burress, C., Pierce, D., Rennaker, R., & Vanneste, S. (2017, September 20). Vagus nerve stimulation paired with tones for the treatment of tinnitus: A prospective randomized double-blind controlled pilot study in humans. Nature News. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-12178-w#citeas

Unlock the Secret to Tinnitus Relief With Our Free Webinar

Register for our 20 minute webinar and learn why you don't just have to live with tinnitus.
Thanks for signing up! Please check your inbox to access the course.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Discover how to tune out tinnitus with our free webinar

Register for our 20 minute webinar and learn why you don't just have to live with tinnitus.
Thanks for signing up! Please check your inbox to access the course.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.