Tinnitus is a constant feeling of having a buzzing, ringing, hissing or whizzing noise in the ears for an extended period of time. The volume of this irritant can vary over time at a high or low frequency that ranges from a squeal to a roar. It's possible to have this issue in one or both ears, and it is possible that is goes in and out on a regular basis. It can get loud enough to interfere with concentration or hearing natural noises.
There are two different classified categories of tinnitus. Although tinnitus is most commonly seen in adults, people of all ages may experience this issue. If the phantom sound is accompanied by hearing loss and dizziness, you may be experiencing symptoms of Meniere's disease. Tinnitus is typically a sign of an underlying condition or disease. According to the American Tinnitus Association, nearly 36 million Americans suffer from some type of the tinnitus, which is about 1 in 5 people.
Objective tinnitus is fairly uncommon and is a condition where you and your doctor can both hear the ringing, hissing or roaring noise. This rare form of the ailment is caused by a blood vessel problem, muscle contractions or an inner ear bone condition. Less than 5 percent of patients suffer from this type of tinnitus. Some individuals report the condition as pulsing, or synchronous, with their heartbeat. In these cases, patients will be prescribed with treatment that may include surgery.
Subjective tinnitus is the most common form of the ailment, in which only the patient can hear the irritating noise. Roughly 95 percent of all tinnitus sufferers report the subjective form, reported the UCSF Medical Center. These cases are typically associated with nearly every form of ear disorders, and are reported in more than 80 percent of cases in which individuals suffer from a sensorineural hearing loss that is caused by nerve and/or hair cell damage. Subjective tinnitus is typically caused by problems in the outer, middle or inner ear.
However, tinnitus is subjective on a case by case basis, and two individuals may not demonstrate identical tinnitus loudness and pitches. Each individual may be affected drastically different by the ailment as well.
Having a constant ringing in your ear is obviously not going to make for a pleasant afternoon, but you may also have issues falling asleep or concentrating at work or in your daily life. The constant discomfort, lack of sleep and inability to live your life as you used to may even cause depression or anxiety. Anxiety is especially common if tinnitus is getting in the way of work or other stressful situations. Many suffers of tinnitus often report additional problems in their daily lives, and some describe a connection between tinnitus perception and stress. Individuals may suffer from other symptoms such as vertigo or hearing loss.
Symptoms of tinnitus are an early indicator of acoustic neuroma, which is also accompanied by facial paralysis, headache, nausea, vomiting and papilledema. A patient may also have constant tinnitus with atherosclerosis of the carotid artery, which can be stopped by putting pressure over the carotid artery. Other medical issues that often have tinnitus as a symptom include cervical spondylosis, Eustachian tube patency and glomus jugulare. Individuals who are suffering from severe hypertension may also have bilateral, high-pitched tinnitus along with a throbbing headache, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and seizures.
The sounds you hear may actually be able to help your doctor determine the best way to treat your tinnitus. If your symptoms include a clicking noise, that means that muscle contractions in and around the ear are causing sharp sounds, which can last anywhere from a few seconds to a couple minutes.
Having stiff inner ear bones, or otosclerosis, can cause a low-pitched noise that can be experienced either on a continuous basis or at more random intervals. Foreign objects in the ear canal, hairs or earwax can rub up against the eardrum and cause a variety of different sounds.
Other people explain their tinnitus as sounding like a heartbeat. This may be an issue with the blood vessels. High blood pressure, an aneurysm or tumor can create an amplified sound of your actual heartbeat in the ear. This can also be caused by something obstructing the ear canal.
After experiencing symptoms of tinnitus, your audiologist will conduct a physical examination of the eats as well as a hearing test. Sounds will be transmitted through headphones one ear at a time, and you will be asked to respond by making a simple gesture when you hear the sound. This test will allow a hearing professional to understand the cause of the issue based on your symptoms and reactions to the exam. They will also compare this to what people of your age and gender can typically hear.
Your doctor may also ask you to move around a little to determine why you are experiencing symptoms of tinnitus. You may have to move your eyes, clench your jaw, or move the neck, arms or legs during the exam.
Experiencing symptoms of tinnitus is unpleasant, but paying close attention to the symptoms, what environment you are in when they are severe and what the noise sounds like will help a professional treat the issue. Take note if you hear it in both ears, if it happens on a continuous basis or randomly, and if there is anything in your daily life that may have triggered the symptoms.
This content was last reviewed on: July 24th, 2013