A symptom of an underlying disorder rather than a condition itself, tinnitus has long baffled experts. Hearing a ringing, buzzing, clicking, roaring or hissing in the ear can affect one or both ears, vary in pitch and range from a mild annoyance to a debilitating problem. Understanding the cause of this symptom can prompt you to seek treatment and finally find relief.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus affects about 20% of all Americans and can be broken down into two types: subjective and objective.
Subjective tinnitus involves sounds only you can hear. This is the most common type and is caused by a problem with the outer, middle or inner ear, auditory nerve or the portion of the brain responsible for processing sounds.
Objective tinnitus is much rarer and occurs when both you and your doctor can hear the ringing. This type of tinnitus is caused by muscle contractions, middle ear bone condition or a blood vessel disorder.
Relationship with Hearing Loss
Tinnitus and hearing loss are commonly associated conditions; in fact, as many as 90% of those with tinnitus also experience hearing loss. Hearing loss is often caused by damage to the delicate hair cells within the inner ear. This damage can be caused by exposure to loud noises or aging.
The same inner ear damage can lead to tinnitus. When the hair cells are injured, they can “leak,” randomly sending out electrical signals. These signals travel to the brain and are interpreted as sound, even though there is no sound present.
Additional Causes of Tinnitus
While hearing loss may be the most closely related condition to tinnitus, it is important to understand the lesser-known causes as well.
This disorder is an abnormal sensitivity to ordinary environmental sounds. Those who suffer from this condition report feeling physical pain when exposed to normal sounds presented at an ordinary volume.
Tinnitus sufferers commonly also experience this sensitivity to sounds.
Known as selective sound sensitivity, this condition involves an abnormal reaction to specific sounds. This negative reaction includes anger, disgust or fear and is often in response to oral sounds, such as chewing or breathing. People with this condition can have a similar emotional reaction to visual stimuli that accompany the problematic sounds.
This condition is characterized by a fearful or unwarranted emotional reaction to specific loud sounds including traffic, closing doors or loud speech.
To learn more about the cause of your tinnitus or available treatment options, contact Wilmington Audiology to schedule an appointment today.