What is Tinnitus?

Simply put, Tinnitus is hearing sounds that aren’t generated outside of the body and is almost never heard by others. 

Tinnitus isn’t a disease but is instead a symptom of an underlying health problem. In fact, there are around 200 different health disorders that can cause Tinnitus. In most cases, it’s not a sign of a serious illness or condition.

However, it’s best to see your hearing health practitioner or your family physician to determine if there are any underlying health issues that may cause Tinnitus. 6 Tinnitus Risk Factors

What kinds of sounds do you hear?

Usually, Tinnitus is described as a ringing in the ears, which is a direct link to the word’s roots – it comes from the Latin ‘tinnire,’ meaning to ring like a bell or to tinkle. High-pitched steady ringing is also the most common form of Tinnitus.

The sounds of Tinnitus can be just about anything including ringing, buzzing, hissing, humming, whooshing.

Although it’s rare, Tinnitus can also manifest itself as fragments of a song. This is known as ‘musical hallucinations’ or ‘auditory imagery.’

There are other rare cases patients hear rhythmic noises that pulsate along with the beat of your heart. This type of Tinnitus is known as ‘pulsatile Tinnitus.’

What causes Tinnitus?

As mentioned previously, the underlying causes of Tinnitus are quite varied, but the most common reason for Tinnitus is damage to the tiny sensory hair cells of the cochlea in the inner ear.

Research suggests that damage to the inner ear, along with the resulting lack of actual sound being carried to the brain’s hearing centre, causes the brain to try fill in the gaps. The brain then interprets what isn’t externally audible.

Sensorineural Hearing loss is commonly associated with Tinnitus.

Two of the common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are:

  • Age-related hearing loss – also known as presbycusis
  • Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) – sustained or continuous exposure to loud sounds, including in the workplace or at a concert.

Other causes of Tinnitus may include:

What is tinnitus and how is it prevented?

  • Obstructions in the middle ear
  • Head and neck trauma
  • Ear infections
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Ménière's disease
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
  • Sinus pressure and barometric trauma
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Ototoxic Drugs – including certain antibiotics and cancer medications, diuretics

Watch 'Why do I hear ringing in my ears?'

Tinnitus Prevention

One way to try and prevent Tinnitus is to limit your exposure to loud noises.

Sounds above 85 decibels are considered loud and any continuous exposure could lead to hearing loss and possibly Tinnitus. To give you an idea of how loud that is, a snow blower is about 85 dB, while a motorcycle sits at about 100 dB and a music concert is about 110 dB.

4 ways to prevent Tinnitus

  1. Step away from any loud sounds.
  2. Use hearing protection like earplugs or earmuffs. You can speak to a Hearing Solutions Audiologist or Hearing Instrument Specialist about custom earplugs.
  3. Turn down the volume on your electronic devices like your smartphone, MP3 player, etc.
  4. Consider downloading an app that measures noise levels and sets a limit on how loud you can listen to audio and video content on your devices.

Tinnitus Treatment and Management Solutions

Individuals with tinnitus are often told, "there is nothing you can do." This is unfortunate, unhelpful and untrue. While treating tinnitus is indeed challenging, understanding it is the first step.

Consult with a professional at Hearing Solutions to get further insight into the nature of your tinnitus symptoms and learn about a variety of treatment options customised to you and your lifestyle.

Contact Hearing Solutions to find out about Tinnitus Management