It is estimated that about one in five individuals suffer from tinnitus. Two types of tinnitus have been identified—objective and subjective tinnitus. Objective tinnitus describes external sound that can be heard by both the patient and the health care professional and may be associated with muscular issues or increased blood flow known as pulsatile tinnitus. The individual should discuss the issue with a trained health care professional as it may be a symptom of a more severe condition, although rare.
However, most individuals suffer from subjective tinnitus where no external noise is present. The person experiences a ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, or some type of chirping sound in one or both ears that may be constant or intermittent. Often tinnitus is associated with hearing loss or noise exposure. Sometimes subjective tinnitus may be a symptom of a more serious illness such as Meniere’s disease, which is an abnormal amount of fluid within the inner ear. Stress and depression can also worsen the perception of tinnitus.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for subjective tinnitus. Researchers are currently studying tinnitus and its effects on individuals. Since tinnitus can affect an individual’s quality of life, more research is needed to better understand the exact cause within the auditory system.
Management treatments are available but vary in success among individuals. Music therapy may be an option for some individuals. Biofeedback therapy is another option where the individual uses the signals from his/her own body to learn to accept living with tinnitus. Individuals who suffer from hearing loss may need hearing aids. Hearing aids may help to mask tinnitus providing some relief for the individual.