Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ear when no actual external noise is present. While it is commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus can manifest many different perceptions of sound, including buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking.Tinnitus isn’t a condition itself — it’s a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder. The noise may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and you may hear it in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it can interfere with your ability to concentrate or hear actual sound. Tinnitus may be present all the time, or intermittent.
In general, there are two types of tinnitus:
Subjective Tinnitus: Head or ear noises that are perceived only by the patient. Subjective tinnitus is usually related to auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss. More than 99% of all tinnitus reported cases are of the subjective variety.
Objective Tinnitus: Head or ear noises that are audible to other people, as well as the patient. These sounds are usually produced by internal functions in the body’s circulatory (blood flow) and somatic (musculo-skeletal movement) systems. Objective tinnitus is very rare, representing less than 1% of total tinnitus cases.
In some cases, the exact cause of the tinnitus may not be found but serious underlying conditions can be ruled out.
Tinnitus sometimes resolves on its own. Tinnitus may be treated by addressing the underlying condition. There is currently no scientifically-validated cure for most types of tinnitus. There are, however, treatment options that can ease the perceived burden of tinnitus, allowing patients to live more comfortable, and productive lives.Depending on the individual case, some tinnitus treatments may include:
It is important to note that there is not one treatment that will work for each individual.
Sound therapy is another option that can help lessen the severity of tinnitus. Sound therapy involves the use of a sound-generating device as part of an overall program designed by an audiologist or hearing specialist that includes informational counseling and other activities to help ease the stress of tinnitus. Sound therapy includes an individual regimen of listening to specific sounds such as soothing tones or customized music through headphones to help re-focus the auditory system.
In general, tinnitus treatments may not make the tinnitus disappear completely, but but they may make it less noticeable and ease your stress and anxiety from it. Speak with your hearing specialist about the best tinnitus treatment option for you.
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