Everything you need to know about tinnitus

Everything You Need To Know About Tinnitus

By Chrissy Hughes on 25th July 2016

What exactly is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a phantom noise, it is the brain interpreting signals as sound, often in the absence of any noise at all. It is most commonly a high pitched ringing, buzzing, or chirping sound but it can really be any kind of noise.

In its most common form, tinnitus is a subjective condition – you wouldn’t know that someone else had it unless they told you. This makes it particularly difficult for doctors to diagnose and for patients to describe to their family and friends.

Tinnitus affects over 300 million people worldwide; around 10% of the population have it to some degree, with 2% being affected in a debilitating way.

What noises can you experience with tinnitus?

Tinnitus can occur in one ear, or both. The noises you may experience can vary and you may hear more than one sound. It’s not uncommon for the sounds to change.

Some of the noises that you may hear are:

  • Buzzing,
  • Ringing,
  • Whistling,
  • Clicking,
  • Hissing,
  • Whooshing.

What are some common causes of tinnitus?

While it is the case that prolonged exposure to loud noise can be a cause of tinnitus, the truth is that tinnitus has many causes. Many people develop tinnitus for no obvious reason. People of any gender, age, background, or profession can suffer from the condition.

The most common causes of tinnitus are:

  • Loud noise,
  • Old age.

Other causes include:

  • Earwax blockage,
  • Head or neck injuries,
  • Meniere’s disease,
  • High blood pressure,
  • Medication,
  • Stress,
  • Smoking.

What types of tinnitus are there?

Subjective tinnitus: Subjective tinnitus is the kind of tinnitus that is only audible to the patient. It is the most common type of tinnitus. There are currently no ways to objectively measure subjective tinnitus, it has to be assessed using self-reported questionnaires like the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI).

Objective tinnitus: Objective tinnitus may or may not be audible to a person, but it is audible to an observer with a stethoscope or by simply listening in close proximity to the ear. In most cases objective tinnitus can be determined and treatment can be prescribed.

What are some common myths about tinnitus?

MYTH: Tinnitus only affects people who listen to loud music.

FACT: Don’t get us wrong, listening to loud music or being exposed to loud noises over time can cause tinnitus but there are other causes too. Many people develop tinnitus for no apparent reason.

MYTH: There’s nothing you can do for tinnitus.

FACT: There is no cure for tinnitus, but there are many ways that you can manage it and reduce the impact it may cause. There are many options out there such as sound therapy, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), and mindfulness.

MYTH: Tinnitus will drive me crazy.

FACT: We understand how debilitating and stressful tinnitus can be, but you can manage it. Find a good audiologist or ENT specialist who will help you take the steps towards managing your tinnitus.

MYTH: Tinnitus is all in my head.

FACT: It is hard dealing with an “invisible illness” as no one else can hear what you can, but the simple fact is tinnitus is not all in your head and you are not imagining it. Over 300 million people in the world suffer from it so you are not alone!

MYTH: Young people don’t get tinnitus.

FACT: Anyone can get tinnitus. Yes, it is more prevalent in people over the age of 40 but it is becoming more common in younger people too. In fact, 1 in 5 teenagers suffers from permanent tinnitus according to a recent study.

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