Living With Tinnitus .net

Tinnitus is a complex hearing condition which affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Tinnitus (taken from the Latin word for ‘ringing’) is the name given to a condition where the sufferer hears sounds (such as a high-pitched ringing noise) when there is no actual external sound source.  It can appear to come from inside the head, in the ears or from outside.  Sometimes it can be difficult to ascertain where the sound originates from.

The type of sound each tinnitus sufferer experiences can vary greatly.  The pitch experienced can be a high frequency ringing, whistling or hissing.  Lower frequency sounds include rumbling, buzzing or whooshing wave-like sounds.  That said, some sufferers experience all of the above with a complete range of pitches and sounds in one or both ears.

There are 2 types of tinnitus namely objective (pulsatile) and subjective (non-pulsatile).  The objective form is where the sounds come from inside the patient and are audible to another person, for example the noise of blood flow in the vessels of the ear or head.  A medic uses a stethoscope to hear this and will hear the same sound as the patient.

Subjective tinnitus is where the sounds are heard by the sufferer only.  It is only recently that medics thought these sounds to be imagined by the patient, but they are not.  The sounds are made in the sound processing pathway that runs from the ear to the brain.  If it was possible to insert a microphone into the ear, others would be able to hear the sounds too.

There are many causes of tinnitus.  Hearing loss and otological disorders are the two main causes as well as prolonged exposure to loud sounds.  Music concerts are a classic trigger for tinnitus as well as some workplaces where loud equipment is used.  Very rarely, growths or tumors can be the cause of tinnitus but only around 2% of MRI scans carried out on tinnitus sufferers find a tumor.  They are usually small, and grow slowly, if at all.

Treatments include prevention of further damage, so the use or ear defenders and ear plugs is encouraged.  The use of a hearing aid can help by masking the tinnitus induced sounds with outside, everyday noise. In 9 out of 10 cases of tinnitus the sounds fade away and hover in the background.  The simple treatment is to leave well alone and do nothing.

LivingWithTinnitus.net aims to provide you with accurate and up-to-date information on this troublesome condition, from the causes and symptoms to possible treatments.