What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the experience of sound without an external stimulus. It is commonly known as a ringing of the ears.
Although tinnitus sounds have also been described as a buzzing, whistling, roaring, clicking, and in some rare cases, music.
Tinnitus may occur in short bursts (temporary) or over a long period of time (chronic). Tinnitus and hearing loss often go hand in hand, affecting 80% of cases of hearing loss. Chronic tinnitus has been known to cause increased levels of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. It may interfere with one’s ability to concentrate and one’s sleep patterns, leading to memory problems and difficulty in the workplace.
The Prevalence of Tinnitus
The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) reports that “Millions of Americans experience tinnitus, often to a debilitating degree, making it one of the most common health conditions in the country.” Approximately 50 million people – or 15% of the population – experiences some form of tinnitus, whether temporary or chronic. It is estimated that 20 million people experience chronic tinnitus.
Risk factors for tinnitus include: exposure to loud noise, smoking, cardiovascular problems, age, and gender (men are more likely to experience tinnitus).
Types and Causes of Tinnitus
There are two main types of tinnitus: subjective and objective.
Subjective tinnitus makes up 99% of reported cases and is linked to auditory issues. People who experience sensorineural hearing loss may experience tinnitus as well, due to the link between damage to inner ear hair cells and hearing loss. Damage to inner ear hair cells may be caused by ototoxic medication, exposure to loud noise, or through aging. Subjective tinnitus is experienced only by the person who has the tinnitus.
On the other hand, objective tinnitus may be heard both by the person suffering from tinnitus as well as others who sit in close proximity. Objective tinnitus is quite rare, making up less than 1% of reported cases. It is believed to be caused by issues with one’s cardiovascular system which may affect blood flow, such as high blood pressure.
Tinnitus is often linked to other relate health issues, whether it is hearing loss or cardiovascular/musculo-skeletal issues. As such, people who experience tinnitus may find relief by address related health issues.
Because tinnitus is so closely related to hearing loss and they often appear simultaneously, it has been addressed by hearing aid manufacturers. The use of sound therapy may provide relief for folks to experience tinnitus.