What is Tinnitus?
If you’ve ever heard a high-pitched screech, whine or hiss in your ears then you may have shrugged it off, assuming it was just something temporary as a result of hitting your head, hearing a loud sound or something you experience after exercising for an extended period of time. However, that high-pitched sound in your ear actually has a name: tinnitus.
Tinnitus is the name given to the sounds that occur in your ears that don’t have an external source. This means that they are subjective noises because they can only be heard by the person experiencing it. In very rare cases, tinnitus may be caused by something physical in your ear, which is cause for immediate attention from your audiologist. Objective tinnitus can occur and can be heard by others but is far less common.
In most cases, tinnitus sounds like a hissing, buzzing or screeching noise that is high pitched in nature. However, some may attribute it to a whooshing noise, white noise or even the sound of music. In most cases, it’s just a single persistent sound, but you may even experience multiple sounds at once. This is the reason why tinnitus is known as a subjective sound — because it’s difficult to accurately measure just what the sound is.
Is tinnitus dangerous?
In most cases, tinnitus is not dangerous. However, in some serious cases, the tinnitus can be so loud that it becomes debilitating for the patient. It could cause them to stay awake at night, it can cause immense amounts of stress and may even lead to general anxiety or hearing difficulties. Tinnitus is also often linked to hearing loss, which can also come with its own problems and concerns.
Who is at risk of developing tinnitus?
People of all ages can develop tinnitus, but it’s more common in older adults and in particular those who are already experiencing hearing loss. Tinnitus can happen in short bursts after experiencing something that could disrupt one’s hearing, such as after being exposed to a loud sound or a physical blow to the head. In these cases, the tinnitus may only last for a couple of minutes.
However, those with hearing loss, ear infections or impacted earwax may experience tinnitus for much longer periods of times.
Can tinnitus be treated?
In most cases, tinnitus generally gets better over time because our brains learn to naturally filter out the tinnitus so that we pay less attention to it. However, in severe cases where it becomes debilitating, it can be helpful to use a sound generator or even hearing aids to help you overcome your tinnitus.
Your audiologist is the best source of information regarding tinnitus and can help you perform a series of tests and offer a variety of treatment options to help you cope with all levels of tinnitus.