What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is an audiological and neurological condition. It’s the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. The sound is often described as a ringing sound, that’s why people also call it ringing ears. But tinnitus can manifest itself in hissing, clicking, whistling or dial tones. A minor part of tinnitus patients reports hearing voices or music. The tones can be heard anywhere in the head, in one or in both ears.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not an actual disease but rather a symptom of an underlying health condition. Disorders that can generate tinnitus as a symptom are: ear infections, emotional stress, heart diseases, brain tumors, physical exhaustion, head and neck trauma or even a side effect of certain medicines.
Most often tinnitus is associated with hearing loss. 56% of all patients declared to experience hearing loss. This hearing loss can be the result of age-related hearing loss or caused by exposure to loud noises.
Different types of Tinnitus
There are three different kinds of tinnitus: subjective, objective and somatic tinnitus.
Subjective tinnitus is the most common kind and mostly caused by hearing loss. This kind of tinnitus can only be heard by no one other than the patient.
Objective tinnitus is less common and is audible to other people other than the patient. In most cases, it can be heard through a stethoscope.
Somatic tinnitus is a form of subjective tinnitus that can only be heard in one ear. It’s often related to head, neck or dental issues.
More info on the different kinds of tinnitus can be found here.
3 Types of Tinnitus Tones
Aside from the different types above, there’s also a difference in the tones perceived by people.
Tonal Tinnitus: whistling, ringing or humming noises with well-defined frequencies.
Pulsatile Tinnitus: a rhythmic pulsing, often in-beat with that person’s heartbeat.
Musical Tinnitus: The perception of music and/or singing. This type is very rare; about 3% of tinnitus patients experience it.
How is Tinnitus diagnosed?
The diagnosis of tinnitus is usually based on a person’s description because in 95% of all cases it’s a subjective noise. That means, only the person who has it can hear it, making it harder to diagnose. A diagnosis is commonly supported by an audiometric evaluation since it’s often caused by hearing loss. There are 5 common tests to diagnose tinnitus.
Is there a cure for tinnitus?
While a correct diagnosis can help a patient to understand and cope with his or her tinnitus, there is no scientifically proven cure or treatment for it. But there are some things you could do to ease your ringing ears. We’ve listed six tips to ease your tinnitus.
If you suffer from tinnitus it can also be helpful to get in contact with a national or regional tinnitus organization or a support forum like Tinnitus Talk.
How to avoid tinnitus?
Since there’s no proven cure for tinnitus. Preventing it is really important. You can do so by lowering the sound of your surroundings, wearing hearing protection, exercising, …
The Impact of Tinnitus
In 2014, the American Tinnitus Association conducted a survey amongst its members to evaluate how tinnitus patients experience their tinnitus. 4% of the respondents indicated to barely even notice the impact of their tinnitus, while 34% described it as annoying.
Aside from the personal impact on a tinnitus patient’s life and their surroundings (family, friends, co-workers), there are also financial consequences. Personal economic loss of an individual with tinnitus can easily reach up to 30.000 dollars per year, according to the American Tinnitus Association.