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What is Tinnitus and Is It a Sign of Hearing Loss?

Tinnitus

In simple terms, tinnitus is ringing in the ears, although, to some people, it's more of a buzzing, hissing or roaring sound. By no means an uncommon condition, tinnitus affects around 20% of people. Tinnitus is usually most noticeable in a quiet room or when you're trying to fall asleep at night. Unfortunately, the ringing can become such an annoyance that a tinnitus sufferer experiences problems sleeping or has problems concentrating due to the distracting sounds.

What Causes Those Annoying Ear Sounds?

It's important to know that tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom. Something as simple as ear wax blocking the ear canal can cause tinnitus to flare up. Prescription and non-prescription medications, including aspirin, are another common instigator of this annoying symptom. Other possible causes: inner ear disorders, head injury, changes involving the bones of the inner ear, and a non-cancerous tumor involving the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain. Exposure to loud noise, like attending a loud party or concert, can cause temporary tinnitus.

If you have tinnitus, you should see an audiologist and have your hearing evaluated, as tinnitus can be the first sign of hearing loss. You may need a more in-depth evaluation to rule out the other causes listed above, and to see a physician to rule out any medical causes. If your hearing is impaired and you opt for a hearing aid, the hearing aid may improve not only your hearing but the tinnitus symptoms as well. There are other effective treatments for tinnitus available through qualified professionals such as audiologists.

The Bottom Line

Tinnitus is annoying and even debilitating for some people. It's not something you need to deal with alone. Whether your symptoms are due to hearing loss or another cause, treatments are available to help you get relief.

References:

  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. "Tinnitus"
  • Mayo Clinic. "Tinnitus"
  • Audiology Online. "Tinnitus Treatment Options in Hearing Aids: A Novel Approach to Turning Non-Users into Users"