Tinnitus, the perception of a monotonous sound not actually present in the environment, affects nearly 20% of the population of the United States. Although there has been great progress in tinnitus research over the past 25 years, the neurochemical basis of tinnitus is still poorly understood. We review current research about the effects of various types of cochlear damage on the neurotransmitter chemistry in the central auditory system and document evidence that different changes in this chemistry can underlie similar behaviorally measured tinnitus symptoms. Most available data have been obtained from rodents following cochlear damage produced by cochlear ablation, intense sound, or ototoxic drugs. Effects on neurotransmitter systems have been measured as changes in neurotransmitter level, synthesis, release, uptake, and receptors. In this review, magnitudes of changes are presented for neurotransmitter-related amino acids, acetylcholine, and serotonin. A variety of effects have been found in these studies that may be related to animal model, survival time, type and/or magnitude of cochlear damage, or methodology. The overall impression from the evidence presented is that any imbalance of neurotransmitter-related chemistry could disrupt auditory processing in such a way as to produce tinnitus.