What Exactly is Tinnitus?

woman with tinnitus being consoled by husband

TINNITUS EXPLAINED

Tinnitus (pronounced “tin-it-tus”) is an abnormal noise in the ear.  It is extremely common – nearly 36 million Americans have tinnitus.  More than half of the normal population has intermittent tinnitus. Tinnitus may be in both ears or just in one ear. About 6% of the general population has what they consider to be “severe” tinnitus.   Tinnitus may be in both ears or just in one ear.  Seven million Americans are so severely affected that they cannot lead a normal life.

PEOPLE DESCRIBE TINNITUS IN MANY WAYS

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Hissing
  • Whistling
  • Clicking
  • Pulsing
  • Roaring
  • Whooshing

TYPES OF TINNITUS

There are two different categories or kinds of tinnitus.

  • Subjective tinnitus is tinnitus only you can hear. Subjective tinnitus is the most common type of tinnitus. It can be caused by ear problems in your outer, middle or inner ear. It also can be caused by problems with the hearing (auditory) nerves or the part of your brain that interprets nerve signals as sound.
  • Objective tinnitus (believe it or not) is tinnitus your doctor can hear when he or she does an examination. This rare type of tinnitus may be caused by a blood vessel problem, an inner ear bone condition or muscle contractions.

WHAT CAUSES TINNITUS?

Most tinnitus comes from damage to the inner ear or cochlea.  Damage can come in a variety of different ways including:

  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Middle ear infection or fluid
  • Injury to the nerve from the ear to the brain, and central nervous system damage.
  • Aneurysms
  • Increased pressure in the head (hydrocephalus)
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Brain tumors

Many medications can also cause tinnitus. Drugs that can cause tinnitus include:

  • NSAIDS (Motrin, naproxen, etc.
  • Beta-blockers (inderal)
  • Antidepressant
  • Lasix and other diuretics
  • “Mycin” antibiotics
  • Quinine
  • Chemotherapy
  • Heavy metals (such as used for parasitic infections)
  • Marijuana
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Aspirin

HOW IS TINNITUS DIAGNOSED?

Persons with tinnitus should have an examination of the ears and a hearing test.  The TMJ (temporomandibular joints) of the jaw should be checked as about 28% of persons with TMJ syndrome experience tinnitus.  Additional testing may be suggested based on both your medical history and the outcome of your examination.

Comments are closed.