What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a ringing sensation in the ear perceived only by the listener and does not originate from an external sound source. It can be unilateral or bilateral. Tinnitus can be perceived differently by different individuals depending on the cause. It has been described as ringing, buzzing, hissing, clicking, pulsing, or roaring sounds.
Causes of Tinnitus
In majority of the cases, tinnitus occurs due to hearing loss. Hearing loss causes changes in the neural auditory systems that is perceived as sound by the auditory cortex. It is also a common symptom in noise induced hearing losses, where the tinnitus is usually high-pitched in nature and can be matched to the frequency where hearing loss is present.
Impacted ear wax
8th nerve tumors
Cholesteatomas cause unilateral pulsatile tinnitus
Meniere’s Disease causes low frequency tinnitus in the affected ear
In most cases direct management of the cause reduces the sensation of tinnitus. For individuals with hearing loss, prescription of hearing aids causes tinnitus to come down when other sounds are being amplified, or when used in conjunction with tinnitus masking with the hearing aid itself. Otherwise, if tinnitus is the main concern that does not have a concrete origin, an approach called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy can be used. In this approach, the individual is taught to become habituated to the tinnitus, either by focusing on other sounds to mask the tinnitus and reducing voluntary attention to the tinnitus, or by listening to sounds that are closest to their tinnitus.