Simply put, tinnitus is the sounds we hear when there is no external sound present. This might be a ringing in the ears, or more of a buzzing, whooshing, hissing or whistling sound. Tinnitus is relatively common and, while it can be irritating, it is not an illness or disease.
Tinnitus symptoms are different for everyone but are often temporary. The condition can be continuous or intermittent, in one ear or both, and experienced gradually or suddenly.
Who does it affect?
A large proportion of the population have some degree of tinnitus, many of which find it does not interfere with day to day living. There is, however, a number of people who find their tinnitus symptoms very bothersome, impacting on hearing, concentration and quality of life.
There is no relationship between the severity of hearing loss and how bothersome tinnitus is to a person. People with “normal” hearing may have bothersome tinnitus whilst people with significant hearing loss may have no noticeable tinnitus at all.
Bothersome tinnitus is maybe seen more often in people with high stress levels, fatigue, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD and/or other health concerns.
What causes tinnitus?
While there is no definitive known cause of tinnitus, it is usually the result of some type of temporary or permanent change which is either mental or physical and may be to do with hearing. Tinnitus arises from within the auditory system, from the ear structures themselves or in the pathways of the brain.
Tinnitus is often linked to age-related hearing loss or exposure to excessive loud noise.
Some other causes of tinnitus may include (but are not limited to) wax blockage, sinus and middle ear congestion, head trauma, genetic factors and medications.
Types of tinnitus
There are three types of tinnitus:
- Subjective — the most common type of tinnitus, this is where only you can hear it.
- Objective — when a doctor can hear the sounds when they examine your ears, this could be caused by a problem with the blood vessels, bones or muscles in your ear.
- Pulsatile — the rarest form of tinnitus, in which people may hear noises in time with their heartbeat.
Can it be managed?
There is help available and, although there is no cure, the underlying cause of tinnitus may be manageable. There are steps you can take that might help to prevent tinnitus from becoming bothersome. Consider factors that may have contributed to your tinnitus, such as noise exposure or excess ear wax blockage, and how you might mitigate these issues.
While causes may vary, most tinnitus arises from some kind of change in the auditory system. It is important to have a full audiological assessment to help determine if further investigation is needed.
Experiencing tinnitus symptoms?
Early investigation may play a role in preventing tinnitus from becoming bothersome — one of the first steps is discussing your situation with a hearing care professional.
At Audika we have trained clinicians who, after a full audiological assessment, can advise you on how to connect with a specialist if your tinnitus is deemed bothersome.