Tinnitus is more than just a ringing in the ears; it is something that can cause huge distress and discomfort to a great many people. In fact, around five percent of the entire adult population of the UK experiences tinnitus in such a severe form that it interferes with their every day life. Ten percent of people experience it frequently. And of course, most people will, at some point, experience the sudden onset, although for the majority it does tend to go again just as suddenly and quickly as it came.
Tinnitus can sound like a ringing in the ears, of course, but it can also sound like a whistle, buzzing, squeaking, even snatches of music. In fact, there is no one sound that can really define tinnitus, as different people will hear different things. Even the pitch and the volume can change over time. All that can be said is that tinnitus is a sound within the head or the ears that has no external source.
There are two different types of tinnitus. The most common is subjective tinnitus – this can only be heard by the person suffering from the tinnitus itself.
The second type is known as objective tinnitus, and is much rarer. This is a type of tinnitus that can not only be heard by the person who is suffering from it, but also by those professionals who might be examining the patient.
Causes of Tinnitus
When the signal that should go between your ear and your auditory cortex (the part of the brain that is responsible for hearing) is damaged or interrupted, tinnitus can occur, and there are a number of different reasons for this.
- Hearing loss
If you are suffering from hearing loss, the signal is definitely going to have issues associated with it, and tinnitus is certainly a symptom. However, only one two thirds of those who suffer from tinnitus also have hearing loss, so it is not the only cause.
- Loud noises
Noise is a big contributor to tinnitus. It can be a one off loud noise that causes irreparable damage, or it could be due to long term exposure (including frequently attending concerts, listening to music too loudly through headphones or earphones, or through work).
- Head injury
A head injury (or neck or ear injury) can result in tinnitus; just over 10 percent of tinnitus sufferers develop it after this kind of event.
- Ear infection
Since an ear infection can cause blocked hearing, it follows that tinnitus can occur as well.
- Ear disease
Ear disease is often considered more serious than an ear infection, and could require more in-depth medical help. However, just like an ear infection, tinnitus can happen because of it.
There are around 200 prescription and non-prescription drugs that list tinnitus as one of the side effects.
Stress can manifest in a number of physical ways as well as affecting people’s mental health. One of the symptoms of stress can be tinnitus.