What is tinnitus?
The word 'tinnitus' comes from the Latin word for 'ringing' and is the perception of sound in the absence of any corresponding external sound. The sounds can vary from a ringing to a buzzing, whistling, roaring, hissing, or clicking sound. The noise may be low, medium or high-pitched. There may be a single noise or two or more components. The noise may be continuous or it may come and go.
It is important to know when asking the question “what is tinnitus” that tinnitus alone is not a disorder. So it's all in the mind right? Well no, tinnitus does exist, and is a symptom of an underlying condition. Most cases of noise in the ears are not a serious concern, but rather an annoying result of another problem. Treatment can be administered to reduce the noise, and it can often by eliminated by identifying and curing the problem causing it.
Other times tinnitus is a serious concern for the sufferer and can lead to drastic reduction in quality of life for the sufferer.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be cause by mild damage to the inner ear. There are tiny hairs located in the ear that pick up on sound waves as they are heard, and send electrical responses to the brain. This is how we can hear and interpret the sounds around us. If these hairs become bent or broken, they may send off random messages to the brain when sound is not actually present. Tinnitus is not a disease or an illness, it is a symptom generated within a person's own auditory pathways. Although it is often assumed that tinnitus occurs as a result of disease of the ears, this is often not the case. The precise cause of tinnitus is still not fully understood.
Other common causes of tinnitus include earwax buildup, aging, and listening to loud music, either from a concert or extended listening to an MP3 player loud through headphones. Medications can sometimes be the culprit behind the ringing in the ears, which can usually be relieved once the medicine is stopped or the dosage is lowered.
There are two forms of tinnitus.
The first is called subjective tinnitus, and it refers to the noises that only you can hear. These can be caused from problems with the inner, middle, or outer ear. There may also be issues with auditory nerves or area of the brain that receives the signals and interprets them as sound.
The second type is known as objective tinnitus. The sound regarding this form of the condition can be heard by a physician when he does an examination of your ears. These noises can be caused by an inner ear bone problem, blood vessel disorder, or muscular issue.
Tinnitus is an annoyance commonly experienced by many people at one point or another. It is usually a symptom of a larger disorder and in some cases does not cause great concern but in others it is a big problem. The symptom is usually curable and can be relieved by directly treating it or the disorder that is causing the ringing in the ears. Excessive noise exposure can be a serious problem and hearing protection devices, such as foam ear plugs, can aid in prevention of serious hearing loss.
What to do if you think you have tinnitus?
Tinnitus treatment is never going to be a precise formula because in the majority of cases there are no apparent physical causes of tinnitus to treat. That said it is important that as with all health issues you visit and take advise from your doctor at the first sign of any abnormality. In most cases however where a patient describes ringing in the ears doctors are quick to diagnose tinnitus and even quicker to say that there are no known tinnitus cures to help. That it will do you You Can Beat It! No harm and that you must learn to live with it.
Tinnitus is rarely an indication of a serious disorder, but it is wise to see your doctor if you think you might have it. Should something treatable be causing it, you may be referred to a specialist.
Try not to worry
The noises may seem worse if you are anxious or stressed. When tinnitus starts, particularly if it's sudden, you may naturally be frightened and your concentration or your sleep may be disturbed. You may get angry and frustrated because no one else understands, or you may live alone and not have anyone to talk to about it that's there are some groups that can help. Groups are run by people who are living with tinnitus personal contact and shared experience are very useful for many people with tinnitus.
Find out more
You will probably feel better when you find out more about the condition that it's very common and you're not alone. There is lots of information on this website for you to explore, written by experts in the field.
Many people say they notice tinnitus less when they are doing something. Keeping your mind occupied helps (but don't overdo things). If the noises seem louder at quiet times, particularly during the night, it may help to have soothing music or some other environmental or natural sound quietly on in the background.
Practicing relaxation and taking time out for your self can also be a great help.