What is Tinnitus?

What is Tinnitus? - What is Tinnitus?

Have you ever noticed a ringing in your ears or perceive sounds when there is no actual external noise? This sensation is referred to as Tinnitus, and it is one of the most common health conditions in the US. It is estimated that 15% of the population in the US deal with some form of tinnitus. Additionally, about 20 million people suffering from chronic tinnitus and around 2 million people suffer from debilitating or extreme tinnitus. Since these hearing problems are so common, there are a few things you should know about tinnitus and tinnitus treatment.


Types of Tinnitus
While tinnitus can be either acute (temporary) or chronic (ongoing), there are generally two main categories:

Subjective Tinnitus ­ The most common form of tinnitus. This is tinnitus that is only heard by you. It is usually caused by issues in the outer, middle, or inner ear, but can also stem from problems with the auditory nerves or auditory pathways (part of the brain that interprets nerve signals as sound.

Objective Tinnitus ­ This type of tinnitus can be heard by other people. For instance, it could be heard by your doctor during an exam. While very rare, this type of tinnitus can be caused by muscle contractions, a blood vessel problem, or a middle ear bone condition.

While an exact cause is sometimes unclear, there are many conditions and factors that can contribute to your ringing ears. This includes:

  • Inner Ear Cell Damage
  • Earwax Blockage
  • Age­related Hearing Loss
  • Ear Bone Changes
  • Exposure to Loud Noises
  • Blood vessel disorders
  • Head or Neck Injuries
  • TMJ Disorders
  • Acoustic Neuroma
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Smoking
  • Cardiovascular Problems
  • Gender (more common in men)

While there is no cure for tinnitus itself, many doctors will try to treat an underlying condition causing your ringing ears. Treating a blood vessel condition, changing medication (if you are on medication), or removing earwax are common methods many doctors employ. Another method of tinnitus treatment is suppressing the sound to make it less noticeable by using masking
devices, white noise machines, tinnitus retraining, or hearing aids. Medication cannot cure your hearing problems, but certain medications like tricyclic antidepressants and alprazolam can reduce the symptoms in severe cases. If you are experiencing tinnitus in a way that is reducing your quality of life, talk with your doctor to determine the best route of treatment.