What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus (pronounced ti-ni-tis) is the perception of hearing sounds such as ringing, buzzing, crickets, and rushing. Pulsatile tinnitus is a heartbeat-like sound of any combination of these. The noise can be intermittent or continuous, and can vary in volume. It is often worse when background noise is low, so you may be most aware of it at night when you’re trying to fall asleep in a quiet room.
The most common form of tinnitus is known as Subjective Tinnitus where only the person perceiving the tinnitus can hear it. It can be localised to one ear more than another, or seem central within the head. In most cases, Tinnitus accompanies hearing loss, and the pitch that the tinnitus is perceived at, is usually around the frequency range that the hearing is most diminished.
A rarer type of tinnitus, Objective Tinnitus, can occur where a sound audible to the individual, could be amplified to also be heard by others. This could occur as a pulsatile tinnitus where blood flow in vessels close to the skin in the ear canal is impeded and the pulsing or rushing sounds can be heard.
What causes tinnitus?
Prolonged exposure to loud sounds is the most common cause of tinnitus. Up to 90% of people with tinnitus have some level of noise-induced hearing loss. The noise causes permanent damage to the sound-sensitive cells of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear. The outer hair cells of the inner ear are said to be electro-motile. They actually twitch in response to sound to fine tune the pitch and volume of perceived sounds.
Hazardous noise in the work environment
Noise exposure in the work environment can increase the risk of hearing damage and tinnitus. For example: Carpenters, Pilots, Rock Musicians and Construction workers are among those whose jobs put them at risk.
Sudden spontaneous exposure to an extremely loud sound can also cause tinnitus.
Diseases that cause tinnitus
There are also a variety illnesses that are considered causes of tinnitus. Examples include:
Blockages of the ear: Debris build up in your ear canals due to a build-up of wax or an ear infection can result in suppressed hearing and increase the perception of tinnitus.
Ménière’s disease: Tinnitus is often a symptom of Ménière’s disease which effects the inner ear.
Otosclerosis: a disease that results in stiffening of the small bones in the middle ear.
Conditions that Cause Tinnitus
Presbycusis: he natural ageing process can result in a deterioration of the cochlea or other parts of the ear.
Medical conditions: Including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, anaemia, allergies, thyroid problems and diabetes can all increase the risk of tinnitus.
Neck or jaw problems: Including temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome.
Injuries: to the head and neck can also be a cause.
Drugs that can cause tinnitus
Certain drugs increase the risk of tinnitus especially if not taken in the appropriate dosage. For example aspirin over doses have been known to result in tinnitus.
Several types of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, sedatives as well as quinine medications. Tinnitus is cited as a potential side effect for about 200 prescription and non-prescription drugs. It’s important to check the side effects of any drugs with the help of your Doctor.
How does it start?
Tinnitus is unique to each individual and can arise in any part of the auditory system and brain.A holistic and individualised treatment approach is best. The onset of tinnitus usually accompanies a detectable hearing loss. Often the pitch of the tinnitus being heard is around the frequency range that hearing sensitivity has diminished. So it is important to book in for a hearing and tinnitus assessment if you have onset of tinnitus. To book a comprehensive hearing and tinnitus assessment please click: Book an Appointment
How common is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is very common, affecting just about everyone at some stage of their lives. For most people, the condition is merely an annoyance. In severe cases, however, tinnitus can cause people to have difficulty concentrating and sleeping. It may eventually interfere with work and personal relationships resulting in psychological distress. About 12 million people in the United States seek medical help for tinnitus every year.
Although tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, it does not cause the loss, nor does hearing loss cause tinnitus. In fact, some people with tinnitus experience no difficulty hearing, and in a few cases they even become so acutely sensitive to sound (Hyperacusis) that they must take steps to muffle or mask external noises.