Approximately 20% of all Americans experience tinnitus. Even with such a high prevalence, there is still a lot unknown about this phantom ringing in the ear. Understanding the causes can help determine the right treatment plan to help you finally find relief.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a sound that is not present. While tinnitus sounds different to everyone, common noises include a ringing, hissing, buzzing, humming, roaring or clicking. The sounds can range in pitch, may be heard in one or both ears and can vary between sporadic and constant. Tinnitus can be a mild annoyance or a debilitating symptom.
There are two types of tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is sounds only you can hear while objective tinnitus can be heard by your doctor when conducting an evaluation. Subjective tinnitus is by far the most common type of tinnitus.
Causes of Tinnitus
While the cause of tinnitus is not always identifiable, experts agree most cases are the result of damage to the inner ear. Within the inner ear are delicate hair cells that are responsible for translating vibrations into electronic impulses, which are then sent via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sounds. Exposure to loud noise and aging can damage these hair cells. Once damaged, the hairs can “leak” and randomly send signals, alerting the brain to sounds that are not there.
There are a number of conditions that are closely associated with tinnitus.
About 90% of those with tinnitus also have hearing loss. This is because in addition to causing tinnitus, damage to the inner ear is also the most common cause of hearing loss.
This disorder of the inner ear causes episode of vertigo (the sensation that you or your surroundings are spinning), fullness in the ear, hearing loss and tinnitus. The cause of Meniere’s disease is unknown, but experts suspect it is the result of an abnormal amount of fluid in the inner ear.
This condition causes everyday sounds to seem painfully loud. An abnormal sensitivity to ordinary environmental sounds presented at a normal volume is often a side effect of tinnitus.
To learn more about the cause of your tinnitus or to schedule an appointment for treatment, contact Torrance Audiology today.