Tinnitus is a condition where people experience noises in the ears or head when no physical noise is present. Each individual’s tinnitus experience is unique and commonly tinnitus is described as ringing, buzzing, humming, roaring or whistling noises in the ears. The term tinnitus is Latin in origin and means ringing or tinkling like a bell. Tinnitus typically arises in the auditory system as a result of hearing loss which may have a number of causes. Tinnitus is a symptom of a problem within your auditory system. Once the signal is generated in the auditory system, the limbic system, attaches an emotional response to the tinnitus. Tinnitus becomes more than just a sound!
Tinnitus is common!
Approximately 17% to 20% of the general population experience some form of tinnitus varying from mild to severe. For people over the age of 55 the incidence increases to over 30%. For many people the tinnitus experienced is of mild annoyance and only a temporary experience. It is also common for tinnitus to fluctuate and can be triggered by anxiety and stress. Tinnitus may restrict your quality of life as it can be an unpleasant condition, which can have a negative impact on work, family and social life.
Tinnitus is often triggered by some disruption to the auditory system by some form of hearing loss. The hearing loss may have been the result of aging, exposure to loud noises, certain types of drugs and medication, middle ear infections, or any one of many other causes. Whether the hearing loss is permanent or temporary, it could lead to the changes in activity in the auditory system.
In a small proportion of cases, tinnitus arises from a condition that requires medical or surgical intervention. Drugs that have been implicated in hearing damage and tinnitus include:
• loop diuretics
• chemotherapeutic agents
In rare cases, tinnitus might result from an underlying medical problem, such as:
• arteriovenus malformation
• vascular tumor
• benign intracranial hypertension
• palatal or stapedial myoclonus
• eustachian tube dysfunction
• temporal mandibular joint problem
• acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma)
• Meniere’s disease
Its commonly suggested that tinnitus involves neurological changes within the auditory system as well as parts of the brain that influence attention. Although these other causes contribute to only a small percentage of tinnitus cases, their existence underlines the need for a thorough head, ear, nose and throat examination.