Tinnitus is a hearing ailment that impacts an estimated 50 million US citizens between 60 and 75 years of age. The main manifestation of tinnitus, which strikes significantly more men than women, is hearing tones that no one else is able to hear.
Some tinnitus sufferers hear the sounds as generated from their ears, while some experience them as generated from within their heads. Even though the dynamics of the sound can vary, the most commonly-reported seem to be unrelenting high-pitched ringing, whistling, roaring, buzzing, or humming noises, or a fast clicking noise a lot like crickets chirping. Sometimes the clicking sounds can be rhythmic or pulsating, as though in synch with the person’s heartbeat. Most instances are usually generally known as subjective tinnitus, meaning that only individual affected can hear the sound, however in rare cases of objective tinnitus, a health care professional might actually be able to pick up a sound.
Tinnitus is generally not thought to be a disease in itself but an indicator of something else occurring in one or maybe more of the four parts of the auditory system – the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, and the brain. Tinnitus with greater frequency appears as a co-symptom associated with other types of either conductive or sensorineural hearing loss, instead of being a type of hearing loss in itself. In addition, because tinnitus fills the ears with a persistent base level of ever-present sound, it reduces the absolute threshold of hearing and means it is more challenging to hear faint sounds “over” the constant buzzing or ringing.
There are numerous reasons for tinnitus, but the most common is aging, and age-related hearing loss. Other reasons may include being exposed to high decibel sounds or music, changes in or degeneration of the bone structure or hair cells of the inner ear, emotional stress and depression, and injuries that cause trauma to the head, neck or ears. Tinnitus is sometimes viewed as a secondary symptom of various other disorders, such as Meniere’s disease, TMJ disorder, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, and some tumors. A handful of medications may also lead to tinnitus, including certain antibiotics, cancer and malaria medications, diuretics, and aspirin consumed in abnormally high doses.
Unfortunately, there is no standard treatment for tinnitus. Certain cases subside without any intervention after a few months. Varying success has been found in treating the remainder of the cases with electrical stimulation, nutrition and pharmaceutical therapy, and when appropriate, a surgical procedure. If some of the indicators of tinnitus listed above sound familiar to you, consult a specialist for an examination, so that they may help you find the most suitable solution to the problem.