What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is an abnormal perception of a sound reported by a patient but is unrelated to an external source of stimulation. Tinnitus is a very common disorder affecting over 50 million people in the United States. It may be intermittent, constant or fluctuant, mild or severe, and may vary from a low roaring sensation to a high pitched type of sound. It is often referred to as “ringing in the ears,” although some people hear hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping, or clicking. Tinnitus can be intermittent or constant, with single or multiple tones. Its’ perceived volume can range from very soft to extremely loud. It may or may not be associated with a hearing loss. It is also classified further into subjective tinnitus (a noise perceived by the patient alone) or objective (a noise perceived by the patient as well as by another listener). Subjective tinnitus is common; however, objective tinnitus is relatively uncommon. The location of tinnitus may be in the ear(s) and/or in the head.
How many people have it? 50 million Americans experience tinnitus to some degree. Of these, about 12 million have tinnitus which is severe enough to seek medical attention. Of those, about two million patients are so seriously debilitated by their tinnitus, they cannot function on a “normal,” day-to-day basis.
What causes of Tinnitus?
The exact cause (or causes) of tinnitus is not known in every case. There are, however, several likely factors which may cause tinnitus or make existing tinnitus worse: noise-induced hearing loss, wax build-up in the ear canal, certain medications, ear or sinus infections, age-related hearing loss, ear diseases and disorders, jaw misalignment, cardiovascular disease, certain types of tumors, thyroid disorders, head and neck trauma and many others. Of these factors, exposure to loud noises and hearing loss are the most common causes of tinnitus. Treating a hearing loss, either by medical management, if indicated, or with hearing aids, may offer relief of tinnitus 70% of the time. Neuromonics and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy are effective tinnitus treatments with proven success rates of 85%. If you have tinnitus, a comprehensive hearing evaluation by an audiologist, and a medical evaluation by an otologist is recommended.
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