"I have this annoying ringing in my ears and it is not the Holiday bells. It is there constantly. It is so annoying." Bob said.
"I have it also, but I've had mine for years. I think mine is from all the blasts in the military. Mine sounds like a bee buzzing." Frank commented.
"Well, mine is a constant roar, like a freight train, but only when I have episodes of dizziness," noted MaryAnn.
These are all forms of tinnitus — the ringing, buzzing, whistling, roar or swooshing noises in your head or ears. Tinnitus (pronounced ti-ni-tis) is a sensation of noise(s) that may be continuous or intermittent, vary in pitch or be steady, loud or soft. For most individuals, during daytime hours or when background noise is higher, it is undetectable. These individuals are most aware of it at night when trying to fall asleep or in a quiet room.
Tinnitus has many different descriptions and each type of descriptor may be a symptom of something else. Tinnitus has been associated with everything from ear cells dying to excessive noise exposure, Meniere's disease, tumors, cysts, otosclerosis, TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome) and certain medications.
Although tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, it does not cause hearing loss nor does hearing loss cause tinnitus. Fact is, some people who suffer with tinnitus do not demonstrate or have difficulty hearing. There are also rare cases that the individual is too sensitive to sound (hyperacusis) and requires sounds/noise to be masked or reduced. There is a strong correlation (90 percent) between history of prolonged noise exposure and tinnitus. This prolonged noise exposure also may cause a noise-induced hearing loss.
Tinnitus is not a remembered or imagined auditory event. It is not an auditory hallucination. In most cases, it is related to a trauma, event or episode associated with auditory dysfunction or auditory system disease.
A small group of individuals will note having body sounds or somatosounds. These are perceived tones or noises that vary in pitch and loudness, audible by only the individual it is occurring within. These sounds are described as "pulsating" or "heartbeat." They are often vascular in nature, occurring within the person. It is an infrequent type of tinnitus which generally is heard at the same pace as one's heartbeat. There may be a medical symptom of something occurring elsewhere in the body. For this kind of tinnitus, it is important to seek medical help from a physician or audiologist.
There are as many theories, ideas and correlations of what causes tinnitus and the treatment of it as there are individuals who perceive it. Treatments can range from 'go home and live with it' to hearing aids, medications or medical interventions such as surgery. The site of origin varies, thus no two people are alike in their treatment. It is important to get your hearing checked by an audiologist and inform your physician of the symptoms as it may be a precursor of something greater. Tinnitus matching and therapies are a necessity for some people.
Tinnitus is not a disease or a disorder. It is a symptom or part of a dysfunction occurring within the auditory system.
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Patricia Larson Shields, AuD FAAA MA CCC-SP/L is a doctor of audiology with her degree from The School of Audiology of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in February, 2003. She has been in business in Mitchell, SD since September, 1991.