Imaging of tinnitus: A review

Jane L. Weissman, Barry E. Hirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Tinnitus, a buzzing or ringing in the ear, may be pulsatile or continuous (nonpulsatile). The distinction, with a detailed clinical evaluation, determines the most appropriate imaging study. Pulsatile tinnitus suggests a vascular neoplasm, vascular anomaly, or vascular malformation. Most of the neoplasms are glomus tympanicum and glomus jugulare tumors. Vascular anomalies may cause pulsatile tinnitus, but the mechanism is unknown, and another (treatable) cause should be sought. Most neoplasms and anomalies are best seen on bone algorithm computed tomographic (CT) studies. Dural vascular malformations are often elusive on all cross-sectional imaging studies; conventional angiography may be necessary to make this diagnosis. Flow-sensitive magnetic resonance (MR) images show vascular loops compressing the eighth cranial nerve. Carotid dissections, aneurysms, atherosclerosis, and fibromuscular dysplasia can be identified on both MR imaging or MR angiographic studies and CT or CT angiographic studies. Otosclerosis and Paget disease are CT diagnoses. Benign intracranial hypertension often has no abnormal imaging findings. For patients with nonpulsatile tinnitus, MR imaging is the study of choice to exclude a vestibular schwannoma or other neoplasm of the cerebellopontine angle cistern. Multiple sclerosis and a Chiari I malformation are rare causes of pulsatile tinnitus, also best seen on MR studies. Many patients with tinnitus have no abnormal imaging findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-349
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Arteriovenous malformations, craniofacial
  • Arteriovenous malformations, dural
  • Cerebral blood vessels, abnormalities
  • Ear, abnormalities
  • Paraganglioma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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