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What Is Tinnitus and How Is It Diagnosed?
There are plenty of ways that hearing loss affects each of us. From the kinds of sounds we have difficulty with to the causes behind it – how we experience hearing loss is unique to each of us.
But among all of the ways we experience hearing loss, there is one condition that affects nearly 1 in 10 American adults, with some reports citing nearly a quarter of those with hearing loss also experiencing it. The condition is called tinnitus – and unlike hearing loss, tinnitus isn’t a loss of sound as much as a constant state of it.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is most commonly described as a constant and often uncomfortable ringing in the ears. It is frequently experienced by people who also have a hearing loss, with nearly 80% of tinnitus sufferers also reporting a general hearing loss as well.
Unlike hearing loss (which is characterized by the inability to perceive sounds in the environment) tinnitus is the phenomenon of hearing a certain persistent noise when no other sound is present.
This means that individuals suffering from tinnitus might hear a constant ringing or buzzing even when in a silent room. This sound often proves uncomfortable, distracting and difficult to bear depending on the severity of the tinnitus – and for many, the constant ringing can even put incredible strain on work, relationships and daily life.
Although doctors are not certain about the specific causes of tinnitus, most agree that tinnitus is a symptom of damage within the ear, which explains its close relationship with hearing loss. But just like hearing loss, tinnitus is unique to the person who experiences it.
What Does it “Sound” Like?
Although most sources will describe tinnitus as a ringing noise, the way that tinnitus “sounds” varies depending on the person. Tinnitus sufferers report sounds ranging from hissing, buzzing or ticking to even roaring or whooshing. Although the “sound” of tinnitus ranges widely, most have one thing in common – the intrusive sound seems to originate from within the head or ear, and not from an external source.
Since tinnitus is usually a “sound” that originates within the ear or head of a sufferer, tinnitus is often reported to be the most uncomfortable when there is little external sound to distract from the constant ringing or buzzing. Most often, the quietest part of our day is in the evening or nighttime when sound is minimized for sleep. This is when tinnitus is often at its worst – and can be severe enough to affect sleep patterns and the ability to doze off.
Types of Tinnitus and How It’s Diagnosed
Just like the many ways sufferers can experience tinnitus, there are also various types of tinnitus. These types are organized by the assumed source of the sound. For an overwhelming majority of sufferers, this buzzing sound is one that only they can hear, called subjective tinnitus. Since sufferers of subjective tinnitus are experiencing something that only they can perceive, this type of tinnitus cannot be measured with a simple hearing test. Diagnosing subjective tinnitus is a matter of paying close attention to your own symptoms and identifying these characteristics for your hearing specialist.
A minority of tinnitus sufferers experience a different kind of tinnitus called objective tinnitus, which unlike its subjective counterpart, actually produces a sound from the ear that’s audible to others. This type of tinnitus usually comes from muscle spasms or changes in blood flow. Objective tinnitus is often a sign of a more serious medical condition, so your hearing specialist will surely pay close attention to your symptoms to rule it out as a possibility.
Finding Solutions for Tinnitus
Since tinnitus is often so closely linked to hearing loss, many hearing aid manufacturers have created technologies that help a sufferer cope with both hearing loss and the effects of tinnitus simultaneously. Your hearing specialist will certainly have the expertise to help you find solutions for both your hearing loss and your tinnitus, and is your best source of answers to your questions.
If you or a loved one are suffering from a constant and uncomfortable ringing in your ears, we invite you to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions. Soon you’ll be on your way to a more comfortable hearing experience that’s right for you.
Tinnitus treatment results from Lifestyle Hearing Solutions