What is Tinnitus?

Before looking at tinnitus remedies to relieve ringing in the ears, it will be beneficial to get a good understanding of what tinnitus actually is, its symptoms, causes and mainstream treatment…

First off, tinnitus is not a disease or illness. You see, tinnitus — often referred to as ‘ringing in the ears’ — is a symptom of some other underlying problem. For example, one of the chief causes of tinnitus is noise-damaged hearing.

Tinnitus is just the perception of sounds that don’t have an external source. And the mild form of ringing in the ears is very common, with around 10% of people suffering mild tinnitus on occasion. But the number of people who get tinnitus so severely that it prevents them leading a normal life is as high as 1 in 200.

Tinnitus Symptoms

Tinnitus symptoms are the noises a sufferer hears in their head or ears. These sounds can be described as ringing, buzzing, roaring, swishing, whooshing, hissing, ticking, clicking, etc.

And they can be constant, intermittent, severe, mild, and so on, depending on each individual case. The kind of sound heard, e.g. hissing, clicking, etc., may be dependent on the underlying issue(s) causing the tinnitus.

Tinnitus Causes

As mentioned at the beginning, tinnitus is actually a symptom of some underlying issue or problem, not a disease or illness in itself. The underlying causes of tinnitus are many and varied and include:-

  • Hearing damaged by loud noise.
  • Age-related hearing loss.
  • Impacted earwax.
  • Ear infections / inflammations.
  • Head injury / whiplash.
  • Acoustic neuroma (benign tumour of the auditory nerve).
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Anemia.
  • Stress / anxiety / depression.
  • Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).
  • Middle ear effusion (sometimes called ‘glue ear’).
  • Twisted / kinked arteries in head / neck.
  • Glomus tumour (benign tumour commonly found in the middle ear).
  • Benign intracranial hypertension (increased pressure in the fluid around the brain).
  • Intracranial vascular lesions (abnormal artery – vein connections).
  • Venous hum (increased blood flow through jugular vein).
  • Otosclerosis (tiny bones in middle ear become stiff and less mobile).
  • Sinus allergies / inflammation.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Meniere’s disease (resulting from increased pressure in the inner ear).
  • Eustachian tube blockage (the tube equalizes middle ear / atmospheric pressure, and, drains mucous).
  • Lyme disease (disease acquired through tick bites).
  • Thyroid problems.
  • Some drug therapy such as aspirin, quinine, diuretics, chemotherapy, analgesics, antibiotics, etc.

Anatomy of the Human Ear

Subjective Tinnitus

Subjective tinnitus is the most common form of ringing ears by far. It is the name given to the type of tinnitus wherein it is only the victim who actually hears the sounds. No other person, including medical personnel using audio instruments, can hear them. Hence ‘subjective.’

But, be in no doubt, the sufferer does actually hear the sounds, they aren’t a figment of their imagination. And they can be so severe as to seriously disrupt their everyday lives.

One of the main causes is hearing loss, which can be brought about by issues like excessive noise, age-related hearing loss, impacted ear wax, Meniere’s disease, ear infection, middle ear effusion, acoustic neuroma, and some drugs such as aspirin, analgesics, diuretics, antibiotics, quinine, naproxen.

Other causes are head trauma, whiplash, thyroid problems, vitamin B12 deficiency, iron deficiency, depression, anxiety, etc.

Objective Tinnitus

Objective tinnitus is the condition where both the tinnitus sufferer and a medical professional can hear the sounds. The professional can hear them with the aid of an audio instrument as simple as a stethoscope.

Objective tinnitus is usually the result of some sort of arterial disturbance — turbulent blood flow — in the head and / or neck.

A particular type of ringing in the ears that falls into this category is ‘pulsatile tinnitus.’ This is so-called because the sounds that can be heard are rhythmic and can pulse in time with the patient’s heartbeat.

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