Understanding Tinnitus: Top 5 Things To Know

Understanding Tinnitus: Top 5 Things To Know

Tinnitus is Latin for “to tinkle or to ring like a bell.” It can come as a ringing, a hiss, a crackle, a buzz or even a whistle… but in whatever form you hear it, it’s actually a sign of hearing loss. Tinnitus can be a temporary or permanent condition, depending upon the cause.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with tinnitus or you’ve been struggling to manage symptoms on your own, here are the top 5 things to know.

1. There is no actual noise present with tinnitus.

It sounds like you hear something, but you really aren’t. It’s what doctors call an acoustic hallucination - the perception of a sound, not an actual sound. It’s usually “heard” in the ears but it can also occur in your head. The sounds happen when cells in your inner ear are damaged, causing them to send faulty signals to your brain.    

2. Tinnitus is most commonly caused by loud noise.

So, how do those cells get injured? The most common cause is noise. Even a single incident of exposure to an extremely loud noise, such as fireworks or other explosions or a gun shot fired close to the ear can trigger hearing loss or tinnitus. If you work in noisy surroundings it’s important to protect yourself from tinnitus.

3. Tinnitus is one of the most common health conditions in the country.

According to the American Tinnitus Association and the CDC, nearly 15% of the general public – over 50 million Americans – experience some form of tinnitus, and an estimated 2 million have extreme and debilitating cases. In addition to loud noises and simply growing older, tinnitus can also be caused by head trauma, stress, ear infections and even compacted ear wax.   

4. Many tinnitus patients also experience hyperacusis.

Hyperacusis can cause tinnitus patients to find loud noises extremely uncomfortable, even leading some to experience pain when hearing sounds that would not bother someone else – such as dogs barking down the block or even the refrigerator running in the kitchen. People with this condition might say they hear sounds “too much,” and it can lead to stress, irritability and isolation.

5. There is no cure, but there are treatments that can help.

Unfortunately, there is as yet no scientifically proven cure or treatment against tinnitus. But you can ask your doctor or audiologist about other treatment options, including hearing aids, prescriptions and sound masking devices.