Tinnitus is a medical condition in which a ringing noise can be perceived in one ear or in both ears. It is not a disease but is a result of numerous underlying causes of tinnitus such as ear infection, neurological damage, foreign objects in the ear, oxidative stress, nasal allergies which prevent fluid rain, wax accumulation and exposure to loud sounds.
Tinnitus may also come with congenital hearing loss or may be a side effect of some medications but the most common cause of tinnitus is noise-induced.
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Tinnitus may also be in the form of high pitched whining, hissing, humming, electric buzzing, tingling or even a whistling sound.Tinnitus can also be heard as a whooshing sound due to acute muscle spasms just like that of the wind and waves. This condition can be experienced in an intermittent manner but can also be continuous.
In either case, tinnitus can be a result of great distress. The intensity of the ringing sound can be varied in the head, tongue, jaw, shoulder and even by eye movements.
Causes of tinnitus
Tinnitus can emanate from the inner ear, middle ear, from the outer ear as well as from abnormalities in the brain. Damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve that exist in the inner ear can also be a common cause of tinnitus.
People who are aging usually experience impairment in hearing or damage to the hearing nerve which eventually results in chronic tinnitus.
Exposure to loud noises such as those generated by firearms, explosives and high intensity music is also a common cause of tinnitus.
Ear wax or any foreign body that settles in the external ear block the background sounds, making the person with a blocked ear more aware of his or her own head sounds.However, some tinnitus or head noise is normal. Normal sounds can only be heard when we are in a sound proof booth where normal outside noise is significantly reduced.
Types of tinnitus
There are two kinds of tinnitus, one of which is objective tinnitus while the other kind is subjective tinnitus.
Objective tinnitus is described as an actual sound emitted from the patient’s ears and can be causes by muscle spasms which generate a clicking or crackling sound around the middle ear.
Subjective tinnitus may also be caused by otologic disorders which is the same condition that causes hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss is the most common cause of subjective tinnitus. Ototoxic drugs can also cause subjective tinnitus either secondary to hearing loss or without hearing loss.
Hearing loss as well as tinnitus can be permanent conditions. A lasting damage exists when ringing in the ears is clearly heard following long exposure to loud noise such as when attending a music concert or when working in a noisy industrial facility.
The use of earplugs when exposed in these kinds of environment can effectively prevent tinnitus.