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Do you hear sounds like ringing, hissing or thumping but when you look around nothing seems to be making it? Before you think that you may be in your own horror movie, calm down because there might be something more logical behind it - TINNITUS.

Say what? Come again?

Tinnitus is known to be a sound heard by a person without any actual outside source. People diagnosed with tinnitus describe the condition as hearing a ringing, hissing or thumping sound.

Is tinnitus a serious condition?

Most of the time, not really. BUT, if it comes on loudly and suddenly, to the point that it already interferes with normal communication and daily functions, a visit to an audiologist, primary care doctor or ENT might be due.

How common is tinnitus?

According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 50 million Americans experience some form of tinnitus. Approximately 2 million suffer from extreme and debilitating cases while around 20 million people struggle with chronic tinnitus. In short, tinnitus is actually rather common when you look at the data.

Tinnitus - The Phantom Noise

Tinnitus is referred to as phantom noise by many, varying in pitches from a high squeal to a low roar. In some cases, tinnitus sounds can become so loud to the point that it interferes with normal living.

In concept, tinnitus can be really variable - it may come and go in waves or be constantly present. Knowing the type and severity of tinnitus is essential so that an audiologist can map out accurate tinnitus treatment options.

Understanding & Diagnosing Tinnitus

Tinnitus has been reported as a ringing, clicking, roaring, buzzing, hissing or a mixture of those sounds. Doctors will usually ask a tinnitus patient if the sound is occasional or constant. There are specialized tests that audiologists can carry out to document tinnitus. Aside from those tests, an audiologist may also go over your health history, lifestyle, and medication use. Additionally, a patient will also be asked about the ff.:

-exposure to loud sounds
-medicines being taken (including OTCs)

Types of Tinnitus

There are two types of tinnitus -

Subjective Tinnitus. This is the root cause of ‘phantom noise’. Only the person with tinnitus can hear the sound. Subjective tinnitus is usually caused by ear problems in the outer, middle or inner ear. There might also be issues in the hearing or auditory nerves along with the part of the brain that interprets signals to sound.

Subjective tinnitus is the most common type of tinnitus.

Objective tinnitus is the complete opposite of subjective tinnitus. A trained audiologist can actually hear and measure the sound which may be caused by muscle contractions, blood vessel/heart problem, or middle ear bone condition.

Blood Vessel Disorders and Tinnitus

Tinnitus brought about by blood vessel disorders may be caused by the ff.:

Plaque buildup in the arteries
Head or neck tumors
Heart or cardiovascular issues
Untreated or poorly treated high blood pressure
Irregular flow in the carotid artery
Arteriovenous malformation

What about tinnitus that feels like a heartbeat? You know, not the kind of thing where your heart skips a beat when you swoon but instead you seem to always hear a beating, thumping or pulsating sound? It could mean that you have some issues with your blood vessel. This kind of tinnitus SHOULD NOT be ignored and must be referred to a doctor immediately.

When should you see an audiologist?

A common mistake that people with tinnitus do is shrugging off the symptoms until it gets severe. Take it from us, the best time to see an audiologist is when you first experience one or a couple of tinnitus symptoms.

It’s not wise to let tinnitus drag on for some time because in the process, you may already be experiencing anxiety, emotional anxiety or depression which are not uncommon with this condition.

Is tinnitus causing emotional stress or is it the other way around?

This has always been an interesting point of discussing which up until now. With that in mind, perhaps the best thing to do is to not wait until tinnitus starts eating up your happy disposition and overall wellness.

Can you get tinnitus right after a cold?

Experiencing tinnitus after getting a cold or an upper respiratory tract infection is also quite common. Partially, this may be normal BUT if the tinnitus doesn’t improve within a week, you need to see a doctor.

More often than not, tinnitus is a somewhat annoying condition but not really considered as a health threatening condition. There are rare times that tinnitus can be attributed to different types of tumors, cardiovascular or heart issues, blood pressure and blood vessel issues, but again this is rare. You should also see one of these specialists immediately if dizziness accompanies the tinnitus or if you experience sudden hearing loss with accompanied dizziness or nausea.