What is Tinnitus?
Put simply, tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears or head where no external source is present. Some call it "ringing in the ears" or "head noise."
You may be new to the experience of tinnitus, or you may have been suffering with it for a long time. Perhaps you know someone with the problem. This condition affects 1 in 5 people.
There are two types of tinnitus: Subjective tinnitus are sounds only you can hear. This is the most common type of tinnitus.Objective tinnitus are head or ear noises audible to other people as well as the patient. These sounds can be recorded using a sensitive microphone.
Pronouncing the Problem
TINNITUS is pronounced either ti-NIGHT-us or TIN-i-tus. Both pronunciations are correct; the American Tinnitus Association uses ti-NIGHT-us. The word is of Latin origin, meaning "to ring or tinkle like a bell."
Causes of Tinnitus
The exact physiological cause or causes of tinnitus are not known. There are, however, several likely sources, all of which are known to trigger or worsen tinnitus.
- Noise exposure - Exposure to loud noises can damage and even destroy hair cells, called cilia, in the inner ear. Once damaged, these hair cells cannot be renewed or replaced.
- Head and neck trauma - Physical trauma to the head and neck can induce tinnitus. Other symptoms include headaches, vertigo, and memory loss.
- Certain disorders, such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and thoracic outlet syndrome, can have tinnitus as a symptom. When tinnitus is a symptom of another disorder, treating the disorder can help alleviate the tinnitus.
- Certain types of tumors
- Wax build-up
- Jaw misalignment
- Cardiovascular disease
- Ototoxicity - Some medications are ototoxic, that is, the medications are toxic to the ear. Other medications will produce tinnitus as a side effect without damaging the inner ear. Effects, which can depend on the dosage of the medication, can be temporary or permanent. Before taking any medication, make sure that your prescribing physician is aware of your tinnitus, and discuss alternative medications that may be available. There are some websites that provide information on drug interactions. Two popular resources for this are Drugwatch.com and the Physicians Desktop Reference websites.
- Pulsatile tinnitus - Rare type of tinnitus that sounds like a rhythmic pulsing in the ear, typically in time with one's heartbeat. This kind of tinnitus can be caused by abnormal blood flow in arteries or veins close to the inner ear, brain tumors or irregularities in brain structure.