If you suffer from noises in the ears or head, known as tinnitus, you are not alone. Ear and head noises are probably the most common complaints presented to hearing healthcare professionals. Seventeen percent of the general population has tinnitus to a noticeable degree with as many as 30% of those over age 65 years reporting the presence of tinnitus.
An occasional tinnitus, especially within a very quiet environment, is not at all unusual and is reported by 90 to 95% of the population even in the absence of any ear disease or hearing disorders. Tinnitus becomes a problem for some when its intensity so overrides normal environmental sounds that it invades the consciousness.
The word tinnitus has its etymological root in the Latin tinnire meaning “to jingle.” However, the patient experiencing tinnitus may describe the sound as a ringing, roaring, hissing, whistling, chirping, rustling, clicking, buzzing, or some other similar term or description. While most who have tinnitus report the presence of their tinnitus to be constant, others have reported it to be intermittent, fluctuant, or pulsating. Tinnitus may be perceived as a high or low-pitched tone, a band of noise, or as a combination of these sounds.
The perceived loudness of tinnitus may be intense enough for some to be highly debilitating. The tinnitus itself may cause or be aggravated by difficulty sleeping, fatigue, difficulty relaxing, decreased ability to concentrate, increased levels of stress, depression and irritability. The degree to which these factors are present often far exceeds expectations based on the loudness levels of tinnitus as traditionally measured. Clearly the negative effects of tinnitus arise from more than the intensity alone.
The good news for those with tinnitus is that something can indeed be done to help.