It is the number one disability suffered by combat veterans and affects at least one in every 10 American adults. Yet very few people, even those who have it, know what it is or what they can do to combat it.

Tinnitus comes from the Latin word tinnire (to ring) and is a perception of sound for which there is no actual external source. You may describe it as ringing in your ears, while to others it sounds like humming, buzzing, or whistling. Tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of damage to your auditory processing system, but is not itself a cause. The most common contributing factor is the same as for hearing loss — noise exposure — although other likely causes of tinnitus have been identified. However, in many cases no specific culprit can be found.

Different kinds of tinnitus

The four manifestations of tinnitus are as follows:

  • Objective. Can also be heard by a doctor, occurs rarely, and is usually due to involuntary muscle group contractions in the ear or vascular deformities. This variant usually disappears after treatment of a specific cause.
  • Subjective. The most common type of tinnitus, when only you can hear the noise. It appears suddenly and lasts up to three months (acute) or ends in 12 months (subacute). Usually caused by noise exposure and accompanies hearing loss. Beyond 12 months and it is considered a chronic condition.
  • Neurological. Typically caused by a neurological disorder, such as intercranial hypertension.
  • Somatic. Caused or made worse by your body's sensory system. Often associated with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

Tinnitus and hearing loss

While there is no cure available yet, tinnitus treatments are available that address the irritation it causes, such as noise generators, maskers and hearing aid tinnitus therapy features. More than 50 percent of those suffering from tinnitus also have an inner ear hearing impairment. One example is hyperacusis, or a perception that certain environmental sounds are painfully loud when no one else with normal hearing does.

For tinnitus relief, contact a hearing care professional

If you are experiencing ringing in your ears that won't go away, call 855-355-9064 or contact us online to  schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to have your hearing tested, as tinnitus may be a symptom of overall hearing loss. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent your condition from worsening.

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[1] American Tinnitus Association.