Tinnitus (pronounced either tin-NYE-tus or TIN-ni-tus according to the American Tinnitus Association) is defined as hearing sounds that in most cases no one else can hear. Tinnitus is more common in men than women, and tends to be age-related, appearing most commonly after the age of 50. Tinnitus inexplicably affects more Americans in the South than other parts of the country, and an estimated 50 million Americans currently have the condition.
Tinnitus can be of different types, and those who experience it may hear very different types of sounds. Subjective tinnitus is the most common, and is defined as the person hearing sounds that no one else can hear; objective tinnitus is much more rare, and is indicated when a doctor or audiologist can also detect these sounds. Beyond these two common forms of tinnitus there are several other less common forms. These include musical hallucinations (a person hears music that is not playing), pulsatile tinnitus where the rhythmic beats of the heart are heard, and low-frequency sounds that are mistaken for real noises in the environment.
The most common symptom of tinnitus is a persistent, almost-always present, high-pitched ringing noise in one or both ears. This symptom may also be experienced as a buzzing, hissing, roaring, whistling, or clicking sound, one that can change in both pitch (frequency) and amplitude (loudness). If you have mild tinnitus, you might tend to notice it only in quiet environments, because the ambient sounds of noisy environments can mask the buzzing or ringing sounds. Some experience the symptoms of tinnitus more when they are lying down or sitting, as opposed to standing up. Although for most people tinnitus is more a nuisance than anything else, for some it has severe repercussions: they may suffer increased levels of stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Interruptions in sleep or concentration are often found in many of these severe cases. Tinnitus can be diagnosed by one of our specialists by performing a short, painless examination. We recommend that if you suspect that you may have tinnitus you see us, because it can sometimes be an indicator of more serious forms of hearing loss, or even underlying health conditions such as Meniere’s disease, arteriosclerosis, and high blood pressure.