Tinnitus is often described as “ringing in the ears.” Patients with this condition experience the perception of a high-pitched frequency sound that isn't present externally. While normally described as a ringing tone, affected individuals may also hear buzzing, hissing, whistling, or whooshing sounds. This audiological and neurological condition is the result of irreversible hearing damage from exposure to persistent and damaging noise levels. According to the American Tinnitus Association, the condition is experienced by nearly 50 million Americans, with cases ranging from acute (temporary) to chronic conditions with almost debilitating severity.
There are many possible causes for tinnitus although typically it is related to one or two forms of hearing loss
: age related, and noise induced.
• Age Related Hearing Loss
– Typically experienced around the age of 60 or older, the form of hearing loss tends to be bilateral, and involves a weakened perception and sensory loss of high-frequency sounds.
• Noise Induced Hearing Loss
– Can be unilateral (affecting one ear only) and is the result of repeated, or a single exposure to traumatic noise levels. Damaging events include exposure to loud machinery, concerts, sporting events, recreational activities, or an accident.
Research suggests that Tinnitus is the brain’s way of adapting to changes in frequencies caused by hearing loss and may be the neurological response of “filling in” missing sounds no longer received from the auditory system.