Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)
Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that has no external source. Some of the more common sounds reported are: ringing, humming, buzzing, and cricket-like.
It can also be a combination of sounds, and for many, the sound of their tinnitus actually changes. It can be constant or intermittent and is heard in one ear, both ears or in the head. Tinnitus can originate in the middle ear (behind the eardrum) or in the sensorineural auditory system. Occasionally people with tinnitus hear music or singing. This is different from someone who has a mental illness and is experiencing hallucinations. Tinnitus is not a ‘phantom sound’. There is real neural activity in your brain that you are hearing as your tinnitus.
There are many causes of tinnitus, and often the cause is unknown. Just about anything that can cause hearing loss can also cause tinnitus. The most common causes are: Noise exposure (e.g. from shooting or machines at work), a natural part of the aging process, head injury (e.g. from a car accident or fall), as a side effect of medications (e.g. aspirin).
Tinnitus is almost always accompanied by hearing loss. If you have tinnitus, you should have your hearing tested by a hearing health professional. Some 30 million adults suffer from persistent tinnitus (it can also affect children). For 12 million, the problem is severe enough that it impacts their everyday life. Because tinnitus can be a symptom of a more serious disorder, it is important to have an appropriate health evaluation.
Nearly four in ten people experience tinnitus 80% of the time during a typical day; slightly more than one in four people describe their tinnitus as loud; and about one in five describe their tinnitus as disabling or nearly disabling.