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What is Tinnitus?

Published on Jun 04, 2014 and last reviewed on Jan 20, 2022   -  5 min read


A perceptive ringing sound in the ears is a characteristic of tinnitus. Read the article to get to know about tinnitus in detail.

What is Tinnitus?

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a false perception of sound by a person as ringing, buzzing, roaring, or hissing sounds in the absence of actual sound. It can be heard in either one ear or both ears. In most cases, these noises are not external sounds meaning that other people cannot listen to them.

Tinnitus is divided into two types, namely, subjective tinnitus and objective tinnitus. In the case of subjective tinnitus, only the affected person can hear the sound, while in objective tinnitus, it can be heard by the doctor examining the patient. Pulsatile tinnitus is an example of objective tinnitus. In it, a rhythmic pulsing sound that occurs in synchrony with the heartbeat can be heard by the examining doctor.

How Prevalent Is Tinnitus?

The prevalence rate of tinnitus is around 15 to 20%. Older adults are more prone to get tinnitus.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Various conditions giving rise to tinnitus are:

How Is Tinnitus Manifested?

Although most commonly described as a ringing sensation in the ears, tinnitus can also have other forms of phantom noises like the following:

The noises heard with tinnitus usually vary in pitch and sound from low-pitched to high-pitched. It can occur either intermittently or can be present throughout. In a few severe cases, the tinnitus sounds are very loud such that it interferes with the ability of hearing or concentration.

What Increases the Risk of Developing Tinnitus?

  1. Aging is a significant risk factor for tinnitus because the amount of functioning nerve fibers in the ears reduces with aging.

  2. Tinnitus is more commonly seen in males as compared to females.

  3. Exposure to loud noises for an extended period also increases the chances of getting tinnitus.

  4. Chronic smokers and alcoholics have a greater risk of developing tinnitus.

  5. Individuals with chronic medical conditions like hypertension, arthritis, cardiac diseases, obesity, and head injuries are more prone to tinnitus.

How Can We Diagnose Tinnitus?

Diagnosis of tinnitus can be made solely by the symptoms presented. However, to treat tinnitus, the underlying causative factor should be identified. To identify it, either the type of sound can be helpful, or some tests are to be performed.

The different sounds and their respective causes are explained below:

In addition, the following tests are also used to determine the underlying cause of tinnitus.

How Is Tinnitus Treated?

There is no cure for tinnitus as such. Treatment depends on the causative factor for tinnitus. Hence the primary disease has to be treated. Along with this, supportive therapy for tinnitus is necessary.

The following are the causative treatments of tinnitus:

  1. Removal of Earwax: If there is blockage of the ear due to earwax, removing it can help relieve symptoms of tinnitus.

  2. Use of Hearing Aids: Tinnitus that occurs due to age-related or noise-induced hearing loss can be alleviated by using hearing aids.

  3. Treating Vascular Disorders: Vascular disorders responsible for tinnitus should be treated appropriately with medications, surgery, or lifestyle modifications.

  4. Stopping the Medication: If a particular medication is the cause of tinnitus, then replacing that medicine with an alternative drug would be helpful.

In addition, the following supportive treatments may be recommended:

What Are the Complications of Tinnitus?

The effect of tinnitus varies from one individual to another. In some cases, tinnitus is known to have a severe impact on the quality of life of the affected individual.

Following are the complications that are associated with tinnitus:


Tinnitus can be problematic for the patients both in terms of mental and physical health. With proper diagnosis and treatment, tinnitus can be best managed. Therefore, reach out to a health care provider at the earliest to get the best possible solution and prevent further complications.

Last reviewed at:
20 Jan 2022  -  5 min read




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