Top Facts and Findings You Need to Know About Tinnitus

smiling hearing loss patient is struggling to hear properly

Tinnitus is a condition in which patients experience sound without any external noise. People typically refer to it as ringing in the ears, but it can take various forms, including buzzing, throbbing, hissing and clicking. In some extreme cases, patients can experience complex auditory hallucinations, such as hearing music that isn’t there

Tinnitus Can Be Subjective or Objective

Tinnitus can be subjective or objective. Most definitions of the condition describe the subjective form in which patients experience noise generated by the brain itself. However, there are objective forms too, such as whooshing noises caused by blood as it passes through the inner and middle ear. 

In principle, audiologists could detect the source of objective auditory hallucinations with sensitive enough instruments. Placing a microphone close to a patient’s ear could sense the noise of rushing blood. 

With subjective tinnitus, however, that is not possible. That’s because the sound is coming from brain networks. Trying to detect the sound of subjective tinnitus would be like trying to listen to the noise in a person’s dream. 

90% Of People with Tinnitus Have Hearing Loss

While some people can experience tinnitus with no hearing loss, it is rare. In the majority of cases, the two go hand in hand. That’s one of the reasons why it is so important to treat hearing loss early on. Wearing hearing aids may prevent or delay the development of tinnitus by providing the brain with adequate auditory stimulation. 

Hearing Aids Can Provide Tinnitus Relief

Hearing aids may also provide people with existing tinnitus relief. Many modern hearing aids deliver masking sounds to the inner ear, such as white noise, that can drown out ringing or buzzing and replace it with something more pleasant. 

Certain External Factors Can Trigger Tinnitus

In some patients, tinnitus is continuous. However, in others, it comes and goes. Triggers can sometimes initiate tinnitus in this latter category of patients. Chemical compounds in the environment, such as alcohol, salt, aspirin and caffeine can all play a role. Smoking may also be a trigger since it can affect blood flow to the ears. 

Tinnitus Affects More Men Than Women

While tinnitus can affect any gender, it tends to be more common in men than in women, affecting around 45 million people across the US. Researchers believe that this may be due to environmental drivers that primarily affect men, such as service in the military and working in noisy environments. Hunting, riding snowmobiles or attending concerts are other possible drivers.

Tinnitus Can Cause Disturbances in Daily Life

People living with tinnitus can experience a host of disturbances in their daily life, including insomnia, stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability and headaches. They may also have memory problems and trouble concentrating at work because of the unwanted noise itself, or tiredness from sleep deprivation. 

Tinnitus Is Often a Symptom of an Underlying Health Condition

The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss. However, the condition may develop for other reasons. For instance, patients may develop tinnitus if they have heart disease, turbulent blood flow or high blood pressure. It can also develop as a result of congenital malformation of the arteries. 

Tinnitus is not usually a sign of a serious health problem. However, if it is loud or doesn’t go away, it can cause anxiety, depression, fatigue and problems with memory and concentration. 

Tinnitus Sounds Are More Than Just Ringing in the Ears

Tinnitus sounds can take on various forms that go well beyond just ringing in the ears. Noises are often described as:

  • Buzzing
  • Swooshing
  • Crackling
  • Pulsating

Sounds can also vary in volume from one day to the next. In total tinnitus, noises are continuous and often stay at constant frequencies. In musical tinnitus, sounds are more complex and often come in the form of music. In objective tinnitus, sounds arise with the heartbeat.

Noise Is a Big Risk Factor for Tinnitus

Patients exposed to high noise levels throughout their lives are more likely to develop tinnitus. Headphone use, regular concert attendance, occupational noise or proximity to explosives can all lead to the development of the condition. 

Get Help for Tinnitus

The good news is that tinnitus is a treatable condition. If you have ringing in your ears, audiologists offer a range of treatments, including hearing aids, that can assist. If you have tinnitus and would like to learn more about the available treatments, get in touch with Peninsula Hearing today. Call our Poulsbo at 360-697-3061 or Port Townsend at 360-379-5458 to learn more.