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Your tinnitus education begins here.

Understanding the "what" and the "why" of this complex condition may help put your mind at ease and better prepare you to make a treatment decision.


What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is any sound you hear in your ears or head that is not coming from the external environment. It may sound like a ringing, hissing, buzzing, roaring, screeching, or other noise. Its pitch may be high or low, and it may be in one or both ears. It can seem loud or soft. It can also change from day to day, or may seem worse when you are tired or stressed. It may be present with a rhythm that you hear in time with your heartbeat. It is unique to you, so your tinnitus may sound different than someone else's tinnitus sounds to them. It may be mild, or just occasional, or it may be intensely loud, irritating, and persistent.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus has many possible causes. It is typically related to damage to the auditory system.

Noise induced tinnitus results from exposure to loud sounds, either in one single instance or after many repeated exposures over time. This is particularly common among those who frequently spend time in loud environments. It is often accompanied by some degree of hearing loss.

Less commonly, tinnitus may be a side effect of a medication, as over 200 medications are known to be ototoxic (able to damage the hearing system). It can also result from head injury, anemia, hormonal changes, an ear or sinus infection, thyroid abnormalities, impacted ear wax, or can be a symptom of another condition such as Meniere's disease. An evaluation can help to identify these, but often the exact cause is unknown.


How do loud sounds cause tinnitus and hearing loss?

As loud sounds enter the ear, they can cause permanent damage to cells known as hair cells (Despite the name, these are NOT actual hairs, they are cells). These cells detect and vibrate to sounds of different frequencies depending on their location. Some detect higher pitched sounds, such as a bird chirping, while others detect lower pitched sounds, such as a dog barking. Their job is to transmit this information to the brain, which then interprets the signals as speech, music, etc. Damaged hair cells can no longer do their job, so the brain no longer receives the information it needs to process. Tinnitus is often caused by the lack of input from the ear to the brain.

Loud Sounds can cause tinnitus

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