Tinnitus is defined as a continuous sound that only the hearer can pick up on. These sounds vary and are often described as a clicking, buzzing, roaring, ringing or hissing sound.
There are several ways tinnitus is identified and categorized.
Limited tinnitus – By far the most common, is a short-term experience often lasting from over five minutes to several days. This type of tinnitus could be a warning sign that some level of hearing loss is likely occurring.
Objective tinnitus – This is the only form that can be perceived by others and needs to be seen immediately by a medical professional. Objective tinnitus is a sign of potentially serious problems with your inner ear or other health issues.
Subjective tinnitus – If your tinnitus is continuous, it’s subjective tinnitus. While the sound level is different for everyone, the treatments and management techniques can be adapted to suit most everyone.
Somatic tinnitus – This form is typically related to physical movement or touch. Some have found neck pain to trigger their tinnitus; others experience tinnitus symptoms generated by muscle spasms in their face, head, tongue, arms, trunk, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) as well.
As you can see, part of the difficulty in treating tinnitus lies in the ability of the hearing specialist to understand the individual’s perception of tinnitus.
What Does Tinnitus Sound Like?
Tinnitus can be expressed as a variety of different sounds, but typically fall into one of these three categories:
Pulsatile – Sounds are perceived to come in pulsing waves that often beat in time with the individual’s heartbeat.
Tonal – Tonal perception is experienced as near-continuous sound with defined frequencies. These frequencies can overlap but remain distinct and clear in their expression.
Musical – Rarest of the tinnitus perceptions, an individual can perceive tinnitus as looping music or singing. Often, the musical tune remains the same.
It’s important to note that instead of hearing a single type of disruptive frequency, some tinnitus sufferers may hear both a buzzing and a screeching sound or other sound combinations.
If you are interested in hearing tinnitus sample sounds, the American Tinnitus Association has compiled a variety of tinnitus sounds.
What Can Cause Tinnitus?
Along with certain demographics (those who work around loud equipment, earbud users, smokers, musicians and seniors), there are other triggers that can cause tinnitus.
Earwax buildup – As earwax builds up, it can cause sound distortion, temporary hearing loss and could trigger tinnitus symptoms.
Diabetes – Blood sugar spikes associated with poorly managed diabetes can damage the nerves in the body. The auditory nerve is vulnerable to this form of nerve damage and can trigger hearing loss and tinnitus.
Loud noise exposure – Long-term loud noise exposure is often one of the most common causes of tinnitus. Even short-term exposure can trigger an episode of temporary tinnitus.
Neck or head injuries – There are many nerves located in an individual’s neck and head as well as the delicate hearing bones and hairs found in the ear. An injury to either of the neck or head can cause a disruption in the person’s hearing.
Medication – A surprising variety of medications have been identified as ototoxic, which means these medications can damage an individual’s hearing and trigger tinnitus symptoms.
Impact Of Tinnitus
While tinnitus may be the butt of sitcom jokes, it can have a serious impact on the day-to-day lives of those who have to live with tinnitus. But, depending on the level the individual perceives tinnitus, the impact tinnitus has on their lives can be quite severe.
Tinnitus which is experienced at a moderate-to-severe level can often affect the sufferer’s mental and emotional well-being. Many experience depression, anxiety, frustration, rapid mood changes, and high irritability, as well as other symptoms.
For those dealing with tinnitus or have loved ones who suffer from tinnitus, it is important to understand the facts surrounding tinnitus. Some of the key facts concerning tinnitus are
Around 50 million people in the United States alone suffer from tinnitus.
Just under 12 million people in the United States have severe enough tinnitus that they require the help of a hearing specialist.
There is no cure for tinnitus, only tinnitus management tools.
High usage of earbuds and headphones has seen a leap of tinnitus in teenagers where one in five now have tinnitus.
Anxiety and stress often contribute to worsening tinnitus symptoms.
Men are more prone to experiencing tinnitus than women.
Ways Modern Hearing Solutions Can Treat Tinnitus
While there is no cure for tinnitus, our hearing specialist can still offer tinnitus sufferers assistance in managing their symptoms. The hearing instrument specialist at Modern Hearing Solutions can offer:
Hearing consultation – Our hearing specialist will spend time consulting with you concerning your experience with tinnitus, and tailor recommendations to your specific needs.
Comprehensive hearing exam – There are several stages to our hearing exam, from the video otoscopy to the speech test. With our comprehensive exam, your precise level of hearing loss and tinnitus can be treated.
Hearing aids – We have a wide assortment of hearing aids and are up-to-date on the latest hearing technology as well as tinnitus treatment options. We'll work with you to find the perfect combination of technology and techniques to help you manage your tinnitus.