Ringing in the ears or persistent clicking, whistling, or other noises affects as many as 1 in 5 people in the United States. You may already be familiar with the insomnia, depression, anxiety, and trouble concentrating that tinnitus can produce. But did you know that 90 percent of tinnitus sufferers also experience hearing loss? In many cases, tinnitus shows up as one of the first signs of hearing loss. Treating this underlying hearing loss is almost always a part of a successful tinnitus treatment program.
Tinnitus is of sound inside the ear or head when no external sound is present. It is often referred to as ”ringing in the ears,” although some people hear buzzing, hissing, roaring, whistling, pulsating, chirping, or clicking. Tinnitus can be intermittent or constant, with single or multiple tones. Its’ perceived volume can range from very soft to extremely loud.
The exact cause (or causes) of tinnitus is not known in every case. There are, however, several likely factors which may cause tinnitus or make existing tinnitus worse: noise-induced hearing loss, wax build-up in the ear canal, certain medications, ear or sinus infections, age-related hearing loss, ear diseases and disorders, jaw misalignment, cardiovascular disease, certain types of tumours, thyroid disorders, head and neck trauma and many others. Of these factors, exposure to loud noises and hearing loss are the most probable causes of tinnitus.
The condition affects different people in different ways. For some, it could sound like persistent buzzing or hissing, and for others a high-pitched ringing or whistling. It can vary drastically in pitch, and is either a constant nuisance or an infrequent annoyance. Some sufferers say it feels like a persistent thumping that matches the rhythm of their heartbeat.
There are two types of tinnitus recognized by audiologists:
- Subjective tinnitus: The most common type of tinnitus – only you can hear it. It could be caused by problems in your outer, middle or inner ear, or the auditory pathways in your brain that interpret sound.
- Objective tinnitus: This is less common, and is easily heard by doctors during an auditory exam. It could be the result of a rare blood vessel problem, muscle contractions or a bone condition in the middle ear.
Treatment & Management
There are many options for people who experience tinnitus. Normally they wear hearing aids to help cover up their tinnitus (by listening more to the environmental sound instead of the noise inside the ear), some wear tinnitus maskers. Additionally, there are combined tinnitus maskers and hearing aids – all in one unit! Some customers require counselling to help them develop strategies to manage their tinnitus.