Tinnitus is a sensation commonly characterized as hearing ringing in the ears that is caused by no external source. About 15% of adults experience this frustrating sensation, describing the sounds they hear as hissing, screeching, whooshing, pulsing or buzzing. Tinnitus can be temporary or chronic and is not a disease itself, but often a symptom of an underlying ear issue. Tinnitus is not the same for everyone who experiences it. There are two types of tinnitus: subjective and objective.
Subjective tinnitus is the far more common type of tinnitus, accounting for approximately 99% of tinnitus experiences. It can only be heard by the person who experiences it, and the ringing sound may be perceived in one or both ears.
Subjective tinnitus can have several causes. Acute tinnitus may be triggered temporarily by hearing a sudden loud noise. More persistent tinnitus can be the result of aging, hearing loss, or dieases such as Meniere's Disease. Other hearing-related health concerns or head injuries may also cause tinnitus.
Objective tinnitus is rare, only affecting about 1% of those with tinnitus. This type of tinnitus is heard not only by the person experiencing it, but it can also be detected by someone else, such as a physician with a stethoscope. It is commonly heard as a regular pulsing noise, in rhythm with the person’s blood flow or pulse near the ear tissue.
Objective tinnitus is typically caused by a vascular disorder or abnormality. Other causes include neurologic disorders that affect muscles in the face and Patulous eustachian tubes, a rare condition that causes the valve of the eustachian tubes (which connect to the middle ear) to remain open.
If you think you're experiencing tinnitus, take your first step to better hearing by downloading our free tinntitus guide.