Tinnitus is a condition where you hear sounds inside your ears that are not coming from an outside source. The common signs of tinnitus include hearing a ringing in your ears. You might also hear throbbing, buzzing, clicking or hissing. Less commonly, some people with tinnitus experience phantom sounds of music. Some individuals hear tinnitus sounds in both ears, while others only in one ear. 

What are the causes of tinnitus? 

Tinnitus is usually caused by damage to the ear, the damage could be associated with hearing loss or an infection inside the ear. In some cases, it may simply be an excess of earwax. Tinnitus may be caused by certain medications, injuries to the neck or head or circulation problems. Tinnitus can also be caused by disorders of the jaw such as temporomandibular joint. In other cases, tinnitus is associated with an underlying disease or condition.

What are the different types of tinnitus?

Regular tinnitus

With regular tinnitus, the person experiences a sound that other people cannot hear. In many cases, regular tinnitus is caused by damage to the inner ear, though it is not the same condition as hearing loss. The individual hears ringing, other phantom sounds, such as clicking. Those who experience these symptoms are advised to book an appointment with an audiologist. 

Pulsatile tinnitus

This type of tinnitus refers to a rhythmical sound, following the pulse of the heart rate. Those who have pulsatile tinnitus usually hear the noises as a thumping sound. Unlike regular tinnitus, the sound source is inside the body, and so it’s possible that a doctor can hear it with a stethoscope. In most cases, health professionals can identify a specific condition that’s causing pulsatile tinnitus.

Neurological tinnitus

When tinnitus is caused by a neurological condition, we can refer to it as neurological tinnitus. One example is a disorder called Meniere’s disease, which can also cause vertigo and balance issues.

How is tinnitus diagnosed? 

An audiologist will diagnose tinnitus by conducting a hearing test. During a test, the patient must listen to sounds, first in one ear and then the other. The audiologist will require the person to give a signal when they hear certain sounds. As well as hearing exams audiologists can perform a variety of tests, to check the function and health of the ears. Such tests might include otoacoustic emissions, tympanometry or electrocochleography.

How can an audiologist help with tinnitus?

Once tinnitus has been diagnosed, there are many different treatment options. Patients might benefit from hearing aids with masking features, sound machines or tinnitus retraining therapy. Most of the time, patients will benefit from a combination of different treatment options. Your audiologist will discuss your options, and help you to decide which might be the most suitable treatment.

Besides these treatments, lifestyle modifications can be helpful. Evidence shows that reducing alcohol and stopping smoking may reduce symptoms. People who are particularly bothered by their tinnitus can also benefit from stress-reduction techniques, whether that’s meditation or yoga.