Tinnitus is an auditory perception, not produced by external sound, and commonly described as hissing, ringing or buzzing. It can be heard in one ear, both ears or in the head. It can begin suddenly or gradually and can be constant, pulsed or intermittent. Often referred to as “ringing in the ears”, tinnitus affects an estimated 50 million Americans. While the exact cause is unknown, one of the prominent theories is that there is excessive neural activity in the auditory system which the patient perceives as sound. Any factor that can cause hearing loss is also a likely source for causing tinnitus, including but not limited to, exposure to loud sounds, head injury, disorders of the ear and the natural part of the aging process. Additionally, certain medications and jaw/neck disorders (ex: TMJD) are also considered to be causes of tinnitus.
Hyperacusis is a reduction of normal tolerance for everyday sounds. The ear perceives an abnormal increase in the sensation of loudness for signals of normal volume. A person with severe hyperacusis has difficulty tolerating everyday sounds, i.e. dishes, silverware, laughter, etc. which are not uncomfortably loud to others.
When Tinnitus or Hyperacusis first begins, most people are concerned and seek information as to the cause. They worry about whether it is a sign of something “bad” which causes significant distress. Discovering there is no “cure” can make the initial reaction worse. Curious and concerned patients come to our clinic to get detailed information and strategies for reducing the impact of their tinnitus. Patients who are very bothered by their tinnitus require further treatment to reduce the stress and improve their coping abilities. Everyone’s tinnitus is unique and we all have different circumstances which affect the impact the tinnitus can have on our lives, thoughts, emotions, hearing, sleep, and concentration.