Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that is not produced by any external noise. The word “Tinnitus” itself comes from the Latin verb “tinnire”, which translates as “to ring.” Although commonly referred to as ringing in the ears, tinnitus symptoms may also be described as a hissing, roaring, clicking, ringing or whooshing sound.
According to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, over 50 million Americans (that’s nearly 15% of the general population), experience some form of tinnitus. Not a condition in and of itself, tinnitus is generally a symptom of an underlying condition, such as an injury to your ear or a hearing loss.
Tinnitus symptoms can be chronic (ongoing) or acute (temporary). We’ve all likely experienced brief bursts of tinnitus that resolve after a few minutes. Acute tinnitus can be brought on by exposure to loud noise over a prolonged period, such as after a long night out in a loud environment. Acute tinnitus can also be the result of exposure to an intense, yet short, burst of loud noise. Chronic tinnitus, where symptoms are ongoing, occurs when symptoms persist for more than three months. This form is more commonly associated with a hearing loss.
There are two types of tinnitus, subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus is the most common form of tinnitus, and corresponds to symptoms that only the individual can hear. It can be caused by problems in your outer, middle or inner ear, or by problems with your auditory system.
Objective tinnitus is much rarer. It involves symptoms of tinnitus that can also be heard by a doctor upon examination, and is often caused by problems with blood vessels, muscle contractions or a condition in the bones of the middle ear.
The exact cause of tinnitus is unclear. The recent theory is that if any part of the auditory system is damaged or blocked, it reduces or prevents sound signals to the brain. This leads to increased activity in the form of spontaneous signals because the brain tries to fill in the gaps.
Put simply by Robert Dobie, M.D. of the ATA. “In almost all cases, tinnitus is caused by the brain’s reaction to a loss of hearing.”
Risk factors such as ageing, smoking, loud noise exposure and certain medications have been identified. Existing conditions such as hearing loss, high blood pressure, meniere’s disease and impacted earwax are also linked to the condition.
The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) has put together samples of common tinnitus sounds, which you can listen to here. This may help describe the symptoms you’re experiencing to a doctor or a loved one.
Tinnitus is an audiological and neurological condition. The ATA is leading the search for a cure, but currently there is none. Treatments to alleviate symptoms are available, such as hearing aids – we recommend booking in a hearing assessment to discuss your options. Please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our hearing professionals today. We have 6 convenient audiology clinic locations for you in Long Island, NY: Babylon, Bayside, Bellmore, Great Neck, Jericho, and Rockville Centre.