Tinnitus (pronounced either tin-NYE-tus or TIN-ni-tus according to the American Tinnitus Association) is defined as hearing sounds that in most cases no one else can hear. Experienced generally more often by men over the age of 50, tinnitus appears to be age-related. It affects an estimated 50 million Americans, and for unknown reasons, it also seems to affect twice as many people in the South as in other areas of the country.
Tinnitus can be of different types, and those who experience it may hear very different types of sounds. Subjective tinnitus is the most common, and is defined as the person hearing sounds that no one else can hear; objective tinnitus is much more rare, and is indicated when a doctor or audiologist can also detect these sounds. Less frequent types of tinnitus include hearing low-frequency noises (which are often mistakenly attributed to external sources rather than tinnitus), musical hallucinations (in which the person hears what appears to be music that no one else can hear), and pulsatile tinnitus (often heard as rhythmic beats that seem to be in time with one’s pulse).
The prevalent symptom of tinnitus is a ringing in one or both ears. This is often a continual high-pitched ringing that does not cease. This symptom may also be experienced as a buzzing, hissing, roaring, whistling, or clicking sound, one that can change in both pitch (frequency) and amplitude (loudness). Mild tinnitus can be masked by every day sounds and while it may appear tinnitus comes and goes for some sufferers it’s important to know that the condition may only be heard in less noisy environments. Some experience the symptoms of tinnitus more when they are lying down or sitting, as opposed to standing up. For many people with mild tinnitus it is a passing irritation that comes and goes. But for those experiencing more severe symptoms it can be a source of exhaustion, depression, stress, and anxiety. Interruptions in sleep or concentration are often found in many of these severe cases. Our hearing specialists are here to diagnose and design a treatment plan for those suffering from tinnitus. This begins with an easy and painless hearing test and examination. Scheduling an appointment is highly recommended, because sometimes tinnitus can be an indicator of serious disease conditions such as arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, and Meniere’s disease, or indicate more serious forms of hearing loss.