What is tinnitus?
T innitus is abnormal noise perceived in one or both ears or in the head. Tinnitus (pronounced either “ TIN – u h – tus” or “tin – NY – tus”) may be intermittent , or it might appear as a constant or continuous sound. It can be experienced as a ring ing, hissing, whistling, buzzing, or clicking sound and can vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squ eal. Tinnitus is very common. Most studies indicate the prevalence in adults as falling within the range of 10% to 15% , with a greater prevalence at high er ages, through the sixth or seventh decade of life.
1 Gender distinctions are not consistently repo rt ed across studies , buttinnitus prevalence is significantly higher in pregnant than non – pregnant women.
2 The most common form of tinnitus is subjective tinnitus, which is noise that other people cannot hear. Objective tinnitus can be heard by an exam iner positioned close to the ear . This is a rare form of tinnitus, occurring in less than 1% of cases.
3 Chronic tinnitus can be annoying , intrusive, and in some cases devastating to a person’s life . Up to 25% of those with chronic tinnitus find it seve re enough to seek treatment.
4 I t can interfere with a person’s ability to hear, work, and perform daily activities. One study showed that 33% of persons being treated for tinnitus reported that it disrupted their sleep, with a greater degree of disruption directly related to the perceived loudness or severity of the tinnitus. 5,6 Causes and related factors Most tinnitus is associated with damage to the auditory (hearing) system, although it can also be associated with other events or factors: jaw , head, or neck injury ; exposure to certain drugs ; nerve damage ; or vascular (blood – flow) problems. With severe tinnitus in adults , coexisting factors may include hearing loss, dizziness, head injury, sinus and middle – ear infections, or mastoiditis ( infection of the spaces within the mastoid bone) . Significant factors associated with mild tinnitus may include meningitis ( inflammation of the membra – nous covering of the brain and spinal cord) , dizziness, migraine, hearing loss, or age. 7 Forty percent of tinnitus patients have decreased sound tolerance , identified as the sum of hyperactive (perception of over – amplification of environmental of 11 sounds) and misophonia / phonophobia (dislike/fear of environmental sounds). 8 While most cases of tinnitus are associated with som e form of hearing impair ment, up to 18% of cases do not involve reports of abnormal hearing.