Is Tinnitus Genetic?

Tinnitus is a sound that is perceived in the ears or head of an individual. It often occurs due to changes or damage to the auditory system, which results in hyperactivity of the neurons along the auditory pathway in the brain. This hyperactivity is what people “hear” as tinnitus (and depending on where the damage occurs, it can sound slightly different for everyone).

However, there are also other causes of tinnitus, and one of the most common questions is: “Is tinnitus genetic?”. In this blog, we will answer that question and provide an overview of the different factors that may be relevant in managing and treating tinnitus symptoms.

Is Tinnitus Linked to Genetics?

The short answer is yes – it can be.

For many years, researchers believed tinnitus could only be caused by damage to the ear or another part of the auditory system. New evidence shows that there may be other causes to this common hearing issue. Recent studies show that tinnitus may be inherited through genetics. Thus, if you have a family history of tinnitus, you may have an increased risk of developing tinnitus.

A study completed by Clifford et al. (2020) indicated eight genes and three loci that are associated with tinnitus and “a number of variants [showing] up consistently among individuals with tinnitus but not among those without tinnitus” (Cederroth, 2020).

These results held true even when taking individuals with hearing loss out of the equation, further supporting that tinnitus can be genetic rather than just caused by hearing loss or changes to our auditory system (Clifford et al., 2020). Regarding gender, studies indicated “higher heritability in men with bilateral tinnitus at any age, and young women with bilateral tinnitus, but not in unilateral tinnitus” (Lopez-Escamez & Amanat, 2020).

Additional studies have evaluated the role of genetics with tinnitus versus environmental factors by examining twins and individuals within a biological family versus individuals within an adoptive family. A study completed by Bogo et al. (2017) evaluated male twins and found a higher risk for tinnitus with more rapid changes in hearing and “a moderate genetic influence for tinnitus.”

Another study evaluated adopted children and found they would often have tinnitus if someone in their biological family also experienced it. In contrast, their adoptive families did not have tinnitus, indicating a genetic component rather than environmental factors contributing to tinnitus (Cederroth & Pirouzi Fard, 2019).

With this information in mind, further research needs to be completed, as many of these studies could not be replicated to validate the possible connections further (Amanat et al., 2021). Additionally, it can be difficult to rule out the auditory changes we experience as we age from environmental factors contributing to tinnitus, such as exposure to loud noises or age-related hearing loss.

While understanding the correlation between genetics and tinnitus is still somewhat in the beginning stages, it is essential to consider whether this symptom appears in your family history. If you notice new tinnitus or worsening tinnitus, it is important to have an evaluation with an experienced audiologist, as early tinnitus treatment can lead to the best outcomes.

What Can Be Done to Determine if I Have Genetic Tinnitus?

Genetic testing for these specific tinnitus genes is only being completed in research and not clinically in medical offices. However, by working with a clinical audiologist, it can be surmised what external and possibly genetic factors may contribute to your symptoms; a detailed medical history and audiological evaluation do this. These results will provide your audiologist with the information needed to move forward with a tinnitus treatment plan specifically customized to you and your background.

What are Other Common Causes of Tinnitus?

While genetics may cause tinnitus, this is just one of many causes of this common hearing issue. With so many unique causes, it can be a challenge to know what exactly is causing that ringing sound in your ears. This is why it’s essential to consult an experienced audiologist who can identify the specific cause of your tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve identified the cause of your tinnitus, developing an effective tinnitus treatment plan becomes easier.

Many of the most common causes of tinnitus include:

  • Repeated exposure to loud noises.
  • Ear infections.
  • Ear wax blockage in the ear canal.
  • Side effect of ototoxic medications.
  • Head or neck injuries.
  • Age-releated hearing loss.
  • Lyme disease.
  • Meniere’s disease.
  • TMJ disorders.
  • Acoustic neuroma.
  • Abnormal neural activity in the auditory nerve fibers.
  • Muscle spasms in the ears.
  • Blood vessel disorders or blood flow problems (which may cause pulsatile tinnitus).

Treating Tinnitus Linked to Genetics

Treatment for tinnitus may look different depending on the results of your initial evaluation; however, most plans will incorporate Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). Prescriptive sound therapy, in conjunction with educational counseling, is a key component of TRT, one of the most effective ways to manage tinnitus symptoms.

The central nervous system (CNS) brings attention and possibly distress to tinnitus. Prescriptive sound therapy stimulates the damaged part of the ear, nerves, and brain. The sound therapy calms and distracts the CNS away from the tinnitus, and it helps rewire the brain by creating a new auditory pathway with less tinnitus hyperactivity.

This prescriptive use of sound often provides immediate relief and has been proven to reduce tinnitus symptoms over time with proper follow-up and educational counseling. The educational counseling component of TRT provides more personalized information about critical factors related to tinnitus, which positively reinforces the new auditory pathways formed.

Tinnitus Treatment with Sound Relief Tinnitus & Hearing Center

Regardless of the cause of your tinnitus, the first step to learning more about treatment options is to speak with a qualified audiologist specializing in this niche aspect of hearing health. Sound Relief is the obvious choice, with 15 audiologists and nine convenient locations in Colorado and Arizona. We are hyper-focused on tinnitus, available to answer your questions and concerns, and can help you find the relief you deserve.

Get started on your way back to peace and quiet by scheduling a comprehensive evaluation consultation at Sound Relief. See how we can help you get back to your best life!


Amanat, S., Gallego-Martinez, A., & Lopez-Escamez, J. A. (2021). Genetic Inheritance and Its Contribution to Tinnitus. Current topics in behavioral neurosciences, 51, 29–47.

Bogo, R., Farah, A., Karlsson, K., Pedersen, N., Svartengren, M., & Skjönsberg, Å. (2017). Prevalence, Incidence Proportion, and Heritability for Tinnitus: A Longitudinal Twin Study. Ear and Hearing, 38(3), 292-300.


Cederroth, C., & PirouziFard, M.N. (2019). Association of Genetic vs Environmental Factors in Swedish Adoptees With Clinically Significant Tinnitus. JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, 145(3), 222-229.


Cederroth, C., Trpchevska, N., & Langguth, B. (2020). A New Buzz for Tinnitus—It’s in the Genes! JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, 146(11), 1025–1026.


Clifford, R., Maihofer, A., & Stein, M. (2020). Novel Risk Loci in Tinnitus and Causal Inference With Neuropsychiatric Disorders Among Adults of European Ancestry. JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, 146(11), 1015–1025.


Lopez-Escamez, J. A., & Amanat, S. (2020). Heritability and Genetics Contribution to Tinnitus.
Otolaryngologic clinics of North America, 53(4), 501–513.


At Sound Relief Tinnitus & Hearing Center, we provide hope and help to those living with tinnitus and other hearing health issues. Our patients are at the center of everything we do, and we strive to guide them to overcome their challenges by delivering innovative and compassionate healthcare.

Dr. Julie Prutsman, owner of this family-owned practice, has expanded to 9 locations across Colorado and Arizona. In 2012, she founded Sound Relief in her hometown of Highlands Ranch, Colorado and continues to foster their mission through mentorship of the brightest minds in the field of Audiology.