Living with tinnitus What is tinnitus? 1. What is tinnitus? Tinnitus is the perception of noises in the head and/or ear which have no external source. It derives from the latin word for ringing and those living with the condition may have to endure a ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling or other noise. The sensation can be constant or intermittent and it can vary in volume. It is not a disease or illness; it is a symptom generated within the auditory system and usually caused by an underlying condition. The noise may be in one or both ears, or it may feel like it is in the head. It is difficult to pinpoint its exact location. It may be low, medium or high pitched and can be heard as a single noise or as multiple components. Occasionally people have tinnitus that can seem like a familiar tune or song. This is known as musical tinnitus or musical hallucination. Some people have tinnitus which has a beat in time with their heartbeat. This is called pulsatile tinnitus. For more information, go to our page All about tinnitus.