Some Basic Facts about Tinnitus

As is often the case in medicine, the facts about the phenomenon known as tinnitus can be quite different from the popular beliefs. For instance, although it is an almost universal practice to refer to it as a sort of ‘ringing in the ears’ sensation, individual sufferers actually report a whole orchestra of widely differing sounds. Buzzing, clicking, high-pitched whining, crackling, beeping, whistling and whooshing sounds have all been reported and, in some rarer cases, patients have even reported experiencing sounds that closely resemble music or the human voice.

The experience is, quite often a temporary or intermittent one and, in fact, is not an illness in itself but merely a symptom that may occur as a result of some underlying condition. For patients that experience the symptom on a continuous basis, the long-term effects can be particularly stressful and may impair their ability to concentrate and even interfere with their sleep.

By far the majority of people who are afflicted by this symptom also present with some degree of hearing loss and, indeed, it is very commonly associated with the temporary, partial deafness that results from exposure to loud noises. Among the more common causes are industrial machinery, explosions, gunfire, heavy traffic and airline activity and music played at unnecessarily high volumes all of which may lead to permanent hearing damage if repeated regularly.

Another of the facts about tinnitus that is not too widely known is that it occurs in two main forms. In the so-called, objective type, the same offending sound that are experienced by the patient are also audible to the audiologist or medical practitioner during examination. Typically, this form of the symptom may result from muscle spasm within the ear that give rise to clicking and cracking noises. In another manifestation of the objective form, the patient and physician can hear a beating noise that matches the patient’s pulse and which, not surprisingly, is described as pulsatile and can indicate some irregularity in the local blood flow.

By contrast, in the subjective form, the intrusive noises are audible only to the patient and are usually the direct result of some otologic disorder. The noise-induced hearing loss mentioned earlier falls into this category but there are numerous other causes. Various medications, including a wide range of antibiotics may lead to sensorineural impairment while ear infections commonly result in conductive hearing loss.

If the condition persists and is accompanied by auditory impairment, it should be investigated and will often be reversible. Untreated, the danger of permanent damage is a very real one. Your physician along with The Ear Institute will be happy to expand on the facts about tinnitus, and its possible treatments.

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