Tinnitus is a condition that affects the inner ears. It manifests itself through noises or ringing in the ears when there are no external noises present. Tinnitus is not a disease but part of a larger fault in the hearing system. This condition involves hearing phantom noises in your ears and has 10 distinct symptoms:
How long do the symptoms of tinnitus last?
Depending on the individuals afflicted with tinnitus, the symptoms can last intermittently or continuously. Most people report that the non-auditory internal sounds are most noticeable during times of quiet such as before bed.
What are the two types of tinnitus?
There are two types of tinnitus; subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus is the most common form of tinnitus and only you can hear the sounds within the inner ear. It is caused by problems in the outer, middle or inner ear. Subjective tinnitus can also occur due to problems with the auditory nerves or the auditory pathways. On the other hand, objective tinnitus is a form of tinnitus your doctor can hear when he/she does an examination. Objective tinnitus is rare and caused by a middle ear bone condition, muscle contractions or blood vessel issues. There is also short-term tinnitus caused by attending a live music show or being exposed to loud noises for a short period of time. This is a form of subjective tinnitus and usually goes away after a few days.
What causes tinnitus?
Generally, tinnitus has four common causes.
- Age-related hearing loss: Also known as presbycusis, age-related hearing loss usually occurs after age 60.
- Exposure to loud noises: Heavy equipment, firearms and other work-related equipment such as chainsaws and engines that create loud noises can cause tinnitus if you are exposed to them daily. Furthermore, listening to music, podcasts and talk radio through headphones at a loud volume for long periods of time also counts as exposure to loud noises.
- Blockage caused by earwax: The over-accumulation of earwax can cause hearing loss and irritation to the eardrum.
- Changes to the ear bone: Otosclerosis (when the bones in your middle ear stiffen from abnormal bone growth) can cause tinnitus. This is a hereditary condition that disrupts the way sound travels from the eardrum to the inner ear.
Besides the aforementioned, there are other less common causes of tinnitus such as certain medications, blood vessel disorders, head or neck injuries, Meniere’s disease (extreme vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss and pressure or fullness in the ear), acoustic neuroma (noncancerous tumour on the nerve that leads from the inner ear to the brain) and TMJ disorders (a group of conditions that create discomfort and pain of the jaw joint and dysfunction of the muscles that control jaw movement).