Tinnitus – What Is It

Tinnitus - What Is It?

Do you or someone you love have Tinnitus? Here are the signs

Tinnitus is defined as the subjective perception of noise or sound not audible to others.  It is frequently referred to as subjective tinnitus because the noise is not heard by others.  It is often perceived to originate from the ears or somewhere in the head.  Tinnitus is pronounced: TINN-ih-tus .  Tinnitus is subjectively described in various ways including sounding like a bell tone, ringing, buzzing, swooshing, white noise, a static sound, a water fall sound, crickets and cicadas, to name a few. One’s awareness of tinnitus can be quite variable. There is a wide spectrum of tinnitus presence and awareness, ranging from very occasional and non-bothersome on one end of the spectrum, to constant and debilitating on the other end of the spectrum.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control over 45 million Americans experience some degree of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom which can be associated with a number of medical conditions, but is most frequently associated with some degree of hearing loss. Medical conditions which can be associated with tinnitus include: ear wax build-up, middle ear fluid and infections, head and neck trauma, temporomandibular joint dysfunction and teeth clenching, barometric trauma, inner ear tumors, and some medications.  Tinnitus is more common in men, older individuals, those with hearing loss, Caucasians, individuals exposed to loud noises, (guns, machinery, factory noise) military personnel, music and extreme sport enthusiasts and those with behavioral issues.

Tinnitus can adversely affect one’s well-being and proper management can reduce these negative influences. Patients can report an interference with social, emotional and physical relationships.  This can be associated with frustration, anxiety, mood swings, an inability to concentrate or think clearly, insomnia, and depression. The difference between simply perceiving tinnitus and being adversely affected by tinnitus depends on the activation of the limbic and autonomic nervous systems. To determine the impact tinnitus has on your life, download and complete the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory.

Please refer the American Tinnitus Association website for more information on tinnitus.

PBS hosted an excellent review of tinnitus by Miles O’Brien which can be viewed here.

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