What Is Tinnitus?

Though the common misconception about tinnitus is that it’s a disease, tinnitus is actually a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears that can only be heard by the affected individual.

Many who suffer from tinnitus describe the annoying sound as ringing in the ear, but a whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing sound is also possible. For some, these sounds come and go. But most are not that lucky, and will experience symptoms 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

These phantom sounds may cause only a slight annoyance, or they may severely disrupt everyday life. The American Tinnitus Association estimates more than 50 million Americans suffer from at least occasional bouts of tinnitus.
 

What Causes Tinnitus?

There are a number of causes, with the most common being exposure to loud noise for a prolonged period of time. In this case, your hearing may be temporarily or permanently damaged, depending upon the severity of the sound.

We can’t always tell whether your temporary damage will become permanent, but tinnitus is usually representative of an inner-ear problem. Tinnitus research is ongoing, and the mechanisms that cause tinnitus in the brain and inner ear are being more closely studied. Some possible causes are:

Loud noises can be a cause of tinnitus

Exposure to loud noise

Some medications can be a cause of tinnitus

Certain medications

Diet can be a cause of tinnitus

Diet

Head Trauma can be a cause of tinnitus

Head Trauma

Stress can be a cause of tinnitus

Stress

Blockage can be a cause of tinnitus

Eardrum blockage

Jaw joint disorders can be a cause of tinnitus

Jaw joint disorders

Hearing Loss can be a cause of tinnitus

Hearing loss

In rare cases, tinnitus may be caused by a blood vessel disorder, resulting in pulsatile tinnitus. This type of tinnitus may be caused by a head or neck tumor, a buildup of cholesterol in the circulatory system, high blood pressure, turbulent blood flow, or malformation of the capillaries surrounding the ear. The result is a tinnitus that sends out pulsing signals in conjunction with the flow of your heartbeat.
 

Treatment Options


Frequently Asked Questions

Can tinnitus be cured?
Currently, there is no cure for tinnitus. However, current research by neurologists suggests that altering certain areas of the brain that respond to sound — or a lack thereof — may provide relief. Experiments to regrow broken hair cells have also been performed. Regrowth of hair cells means that hearing is restored, which prevents the brain from attempting to fill the void left by a lack of hair cells, ultimately ending tinnitus. Both theories are likely years away from clinical trials, which means a greater period of time until any possible cure hits the market. Curing tinnitus may be possible, but likely not in the near future.
Can tinnitus be treated?
Yes. At Audiology Associates we use evidenced-based solutions to treat tinnitus through AGX devices.
Can tinnitus be directly measured?
Rarely. There is a form of tinnitus referred to as “objective tinnitus” that your doctor can hear. This is typically the result of a blood vessel problem, an inner ear bone condition, or muscle contractions.
Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?
No. Tinnitus is a symptom of any number of conditions, including hearing loss.
Why is tinnitus worse at night?
In our daily lives, sounds around us typically mask tinnitus to some degree. At night, when things are quiet, there’s less noise and fewer mental distractions. If your tinnitus is stress-related, it’s also possible that the cumulative stress of your day has made your symptoms worse.