Sound

Tinnitus is the hearing of sound when no external sound is present. While often described as a ringing, it may also sound like a clicking, hiss or roaring. Rarely, unclear voices or music are heard. The sound may be soft or loud, low pitched or high pitched and appear to be coming from one ear or both. Most of the time, it comes on gradually.
In some people, the sound causes depression or anxiety and can interfere with concentration. Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom that can result from a number of underlying causes. One of the most common causes is noise-induced hearing loss. Other causes include ear infections, disease of the heart or blood vessels, Ménière’s disease, brain tumors, emotional stress, exposure to certain medications, a previous head injury, and earwax.

Diagnosis of tinnitus

It is more common in those with depression. The diagnosis of tinnitus is usually based on the person’s description. A number of questionnaires exist that may help to assess how much tinnitus is interfering with a person’s life. The diagnosis is commonly supported by an audiogram and a neurological examination.

If certain problems are found, medical imaging, such as with MRI, may be performed. Other tests are suitable when tinnitus occurs with the same rhythm as the heartbeat. Rarely, the sound may be heard by someone else using a stethoscope, in which case it is known as objective tinnitus. Spontaneous otoacoustic emissions, which are sounds produced normally by the inner ear, may also occasionally result in tinnitus.

Have you ever experienced a constant ringing in your ears that you can’t pinpoint the cause? It might be tinnitus (‘tin-ni-tus)  the sensation of hearing a sound when no external sound is present. In most cases, tinnitus can be managed, but for some, it’s a chronic condition that can affect sleep and everyday function.

Loud sounds over a lifetime

Fortunately, there are options to reduce its effects. About 1 in 5 people experience the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. It’s called tinnitus. Dr. Gayla Poling. They says tinnitus can be perceived a myriad of ways: ringing, buzzing, whistling, a cracking, a chirping. But why? Ninety percent of those with tinnitus have hearing loss. So that’s usually where they start as a source or a reason for the tinnitus.

Hearing loss can be age-related, come from a one-time exposure, or exposure to loud sounds over a lifetime. Poling says the tiny hairs in our inner ear may play a role. Those little hair cells in our inner ear are really delicate structures. That’s what is actually damaged with noise exposure, or wear and tear on your ears across your life span. So those damaged hair cells, might be the reason or part of the cause for tinnitus for some.

Poling says there’s no scientifically proven cure for tinnitus, but there are treatment and management options. That can be something as simple as getting a hearing aid to treating the hearing loss. And once you treat that, then you find that the tinnitus and the perception of that tinnitus is reduced.
Other options include using a sound generator or a fan at night. And then there are more advanced treatments. There’s something called “tinnitus retraining therapy. There are more ear level masking devices where you can hear sounds throughout the day, too, that are more distracting. If ringing in your ears bothers you, start by seeing your health care provider for a hearing test.