Tinnitus is a phantom sound perceived in one or both ears, experienced by an estimated 1 out of 5 American adults. Here are additional facts on tinnitus:
- Tinnitus varies in how it sounds. It varies in pitch and volume and can be described as hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring, whooshing clicking or chirping. It affects everyone differently. For some it is a mild nuisance; to others, a constant distraction that interferes with their quality of life.
- Most cases of tinnitus are subjective in nature. That is, only the patient is able to hear the sounds. In rare cases, another person – usually a doctor – is able to detect the noise, as well. This is known as objective tinnitus.
- Some cases of tinnitus appear to keep rhythm with the pulse or heartbeat. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus and is often related to a vascular condition. Most types of tinnitus are nonpulsatile.
- Tinnitus is considered a symptom rather than a disease. Many things can cause tinnitus. These include hearing loss, noise exposure, Meniere’s disease, head and neck injuries, TMJ disorders, stress, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, migraines, acoustic neuroma (benign tumors), thyroid disorders, ototoxic medications and earwax.
- For a small percentage of people, tinnitus can impact physical and mental health. For those extremely disturbed by tinnitus, it can lead to fatigue, memory loss, concentration problems, depression, irritability and anxiety.
- There are strategies for managing tinnitus. While no cure exists, audiologists are trained to counsel those with tinnitus on how to habituate to tinnitus. Just as your brain can ignore how your clothes feel on your body or your shoes on your feet, tinnitus is a sensation that your brain can learn to ignore. Other tinnitus retraining devices and noise maskers are also available and may be incorporated as part of your tinnitus therapy.