If you hear a constant ringing in your ears without any external stimulus, it is called tinnitus. The sound can also manifest as incessant roaring, hissing, buzzing or clicking. The sound can be loud or soft, low or high pitched. Tinnitus can occur in one ear, or both the ears.
Tinnitus is primarily of two types:
- Subjective tinnitus: This type of tinnitus is very common. In this type, only you are able to hear the ringing, or buzzing. The main cause of subjective tinnitus is ear problems, especially in the inner, middle and outer ear. Problems in the auditory nerves (hearing) or auditory pathways (the part in your brain that changes nerve signals into sound) can also cause subjective tinnitus.
- Objective tinnitus: In this type of tinnitus, the doctor can also hear the sound when he/she performs an examination. This type of tinnitus is rare. Muscles contractions, problems in the blood vessels or conditions in the middle ear bone can cause objective tinnitus.
Tinnitus is not a condition; it is more of a symptom of some other underlying medical condition. Tinnitus can be caused by any of the following complications-
- Hearing loss (This happens mostly among older people)
- Loud noises
- Sinus and ear infections
- Blood vessel or heart problems
- Meniere's disease (The inner ear is affected by unknown causes which lead to deafness)
- Brain tumours
- Hormonal changes(This happens mostly to women)
- Thyroid problem
- Certain medications (antibiotics, cancer medicines, diuretics, quinine medication, some types of antidepressants, aspirin)
The symptoms of tinnitus include
- You hear noises that no one else will be able to hear
- The sound can be depicted as chirping, whistling, screeching, clicking, static, hissing, buzzing, roaring, pulsing, musical or whooshing.
- The sounds can vary greatly in volume and it is most prominent at night or when your surroundings are quiet
- Loss of hearing commonly follows tinnitus. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an Ent Specialist.