Tinnitus (pronounced either tin-NYE-tus or TIN-ni-tus according to the American Tinnitus Association) is defined as hearing sounds that in most cases no one else can hear. It is a condition that seems to be related to age (most cases appear after the age of 50), and is much more common in men than in women. An estimated 50 million Americans have tinnitus; for some reason more of them in the South than other parts of the country.

A range of sounds are experienced by tinnitus suffers and there are different types of tinnitus associated with these sounds.Subjective tinnitus is the most common, and is defined as the person hearing sounds that no one else can hear; objective tinnitus is much more rare, and is indicated when a doctor or audiologist can also detect these sounds. Less frequent types of tinnitus include hearing low-frequency noises (which are often mistakenly attributed to external sources rather than tinnitus), musical hallucinations (in which the person hears what appears to be music that no one else can hear), and pulsatile tinnitus (often heard as rhythmic beats that seem to be in time with one’s pulse).

If there is a single most common symptom of tinnitus, it is hearing a persistent, high-pitched ringing noise, in one ear or in both ears. The noise may also be perceived as a buzzing, whistling, hissing, roaring, or clicking sound, and can vary in both pitch and intensity. People with mild cases of tinnitus may notice the condition only when they are in quiet places, because the sounds they hear from the environment in noisier places mask the ringing sounds of tinnitus. The position of the head can also make a difference; some tinnitus sufferers have reported symptoms intensify while lying down versus sitting or standing up. For many people with mild tinnitus it is a passing irritation that comes and goes. But for those experiencing more severe symptoms it can be a source of exhaustion, depression, stress, and anxiety. Interruptions in sleep or concentration are often found in many of these severe cases. Tinnitus can be diagnosed by one of our specialists by performing a short, painless examination. Scheduling an appointment is highly recommended, because sometimes tinnitus can be an indicator of serious disease conditions such as arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, and Meniere’s disease, or indicate more serious forms of hearing loss.