Tinnitus Signs and Symptoms

The American Tinnitus Association defines the condition (which can be pronounced either tin-NYE-tus or TIN-ni-tus) as hearing sounds that no one else can hear. Tinnitus is more common in men than women, and tends to be age-related, appearing most commonly after the age of 50. Tinnitus inexplicably affects more Americans in the South than other parts of the country, and an estimated 50 million Americans currently have the condition.

A range of sounds are experienced by tinnitus suffers and there are different types of tinnitus associated with these sounds.The first type distinction is between subjective tinnitus (in which only the person with the condition can hear the sounds) and objective tinnitus (which is rare, but in these cases a doctor can actually hear the sounds using sensitive listening devices). Less frequent types of tinnitus include hearing low-frequency noises (which are often mistakenly attributed to external sources rather than tinnitus), musical hallucinations (in which the person hears what appears to be music that no one else can hear), and pulsatile tinnitus (often heard as rhythmic beats that seem to be in time with one’s pulse).

The prevalent symptom of tinnitus is a ringing in one or both ears. This is often a continual high-pitched ringing that does not cease. This symptom may also be experienced as a buzzing, hissing, roaring, whistling, or clicking sound, one that can change in both pitch (frequency) and amplitude (loudness). If you have mild tinnitus, you might tend to notice it only in quiet environments, because the ambient sounds of noisy environments can mask the buzzing or ringing sounds. The position of the head can also make a difference; some tinnitus sufferers have reported symptoms intensify while lying down versus sitting or standing up. Although for most people tinnitus is more a nuisance than anything else, for some it has severe repercussions: they may suffer increased levels of stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Some tinnitus sufferers have complained that the condition made it more difficult for them to concentrate or sleep.

Our specialists can quickly diagnose tinnitus by performing a simple, painless examination and hearing test. We recommend that if you suspect that you may have tinnitus you see us, because it can sometimes be an indicator of more serious forms of hearing loss, or even underlying health conditions such as Meniere’s disease, arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressure.