Nearly 50 million Americans, or 10 to 15 percent of all adults, experience tinnitus—the name for this frustrating, yet common hearing sensation.
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All you need to know on tinnitus
Derived from the Latin word for “ringing,” tinnitus refers to the sensation of perceiving sounds that have no external source—in other words, hearing sounds that are not there. Common sounds include ringing, roaring, humming and buzzing.
Tinnitus is not a condition itself. Usually, it’s a symptom of another condition, which means it’s important to first identify the underlying cause. Some causes, such as excess earwax buildup, hypertension and stress, anemia, or overconsumption of caffeine or cigarettes, can be treated or eliminated relatively easily.
Consistent prolonged exposure to loud noise (as in noisy work environments like factories or construction sites) can increase your risk of tinnitus. Similarly, the risk of experiencing tinnitus increases as we age, and is more common in men than women.
There are some rare but serious health issues which can cause ringing in the ears, as well as some medications. Be sure to consult your doctor if you suddenly start to experience tinnitus.
Most of the time, tinnitus is a symptom of a larger hearing health condition. In fact, 90 percent of people with tinnitus also have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)—though they may not even be aware of it. Hearing loss changes how the brain processes sound, and the sensation of ringing into the ears may be how the brain fills in the gaps to the missing sound frequencies.