Tinnitus is one of the most common auditory problems, affecting an estimated 50 million American adults. Because the onset, duration, and description vary greatly, most people are unsure what actually causes the condition. At Associated Hearing Professionals, we see many patients who experience some degree of tinnitus in our Chesterfield and Clayton offices. Here’s a brief overview of what we tell them about this increasingly common auditory issue.
What Is Tinnitus?
Derived from a Latin word tinnire, meaning “to ring,” tinnitus is characterized by a buzzing, hissing, chirping, whistling, or ringing sound in one or both ears. These noises can be occasional or continuous, and can vary in loudness and tone. Because background noise often blocks out the ringing, tinnitus may only be noticeable in a quiet place. As such, many who suffer from it have difficulty falling asleep at night if their symptoms flare up.
No matter how mild or severe the case may be, all people experiencing tinnitus report hearing phantom noises when no external sound is present. These noises can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, or something in between. These sounds may be persistent or intermittent and may grow worse with time. In extreme cases, a person suffering from tinnitus may be unable to concentrate or may not hear actual sounds due to the phantom noises.
Contrary to popular belief, tinnitus is neither caused by nor the cause of normal hearing loss. In fact, some people with the condition have normal hearing for their age. Even so, they may experience tinnitus because of infections or blockages in the ear. Once these underlying conditions are treated, the phantom sounds will disappear. Unfortunately, these cases are quite rare, since most cases are permanent and irreversible.
According to hearing experts, up to 90 percent of patients with tinnitus have some degree of noise-induced hearing loss. This loss of hearing is not responsible for the condition, but prolonged exposure to loud noises does cause permanent damage to the cells in the inner ear, which are very sensitive to sound. The result is that these areas of the ear no longer function as they should, which causes the phantom sounds.
In a small percentage of cases, tinnitus may be caused by other medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia, and even allergies. It can also be a symptom of the gradual deterioration of the auditory system during the natural aging process. Patients who sustain serious head and neck injuries may also suffer from either intermittent or continuous tinnitus.
Quality Of Life
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Is tinnitus making it harder for you to focus or sleep? Make an appointment with Associated Hearing Professionals ASAP!