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What is Tinnitus

Tinnitus (tin-it-tus) is any sound or noises you are hearing inside your ear or head that is not being generated by anything in the environment. Tinnitus is very common; nearly 36 million Americans have constant tinnitus and more than half of the normal population has intermittent tinnitus. (Hain, 2010). According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Tinnitus is one of the most common forms of disability.

Tinnitus can be intermittent or it can be continuous. The description varies from a high pitched squeal (most common), hissing, ringing, soft roar like the sea in a sea shell, chirping and even musical notes.

Many individuals with a high frequency hearing loss or a hearing loss will report constant tinnitus in one or both ears. There are numerous inner ear disorders that can bring on tinnitus. Middle ear infections can bring on temporary or sometimes permanent tinnitus. Impacted wax in the ear canal is another very common cause of tinnitus. Fortunately, this tinnitus is usually temporary – once the impaction of wax is removed, the tinnitus stops. Exposure to loud noise from a quick blast to prolonged hours can result in tinnitus, both temporary and permanent tinnitus. Many health problems requiring certain medications, generally ototoxic medications, will cause or increase tinnitus.

There are a number of so-called “tinnitus” treatments from medication, herbs, devices and surgery. In most cases, relief is NOT found through these methods. Surgery, the most invasive, should be only considered if and only if there is an actual underlying condition such as an acoustic tumor, otosclerosis (abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear), or chronic middle ear effusion (fluid in the middle ear).

Tinnitus maskers are devices that are worn like a hearing aid that produces or emits a soft sound to cover up or “mask” the tinnitus. Temporary relief is obtained since the masking sound is louder than the tinnitus. However, once the device is removed, the tinnitus is heard again.

Dr. Pawel Jastreboff, a neurophysiologist, developed a successful Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) that is used world-wide. Patients who had gone through TRT no longer find the tinnitus to be bothersome or no longer perceive having tinnitus. The bases of this treatment therapy is to retrain the brain to habituate the tinnitus signal, removing the negative connotations and emotions linked to tinnitus, therefore decreasing the emotional stress, and the brain is free to “let go of the tinnitus” (Jastreboff).

The University of Maryland Tinnitus Treatment Center in Baltimore uses acoustic therapy – Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment. This form of treatment has been found to be quite successful.

Frequently Asked Questions


Tinnitus is any sound that you hear that is NOT generated from a sound source in the environment. Everyone has occasional tinnitus. Tinnitus becomes a problem when it is constant and loud. Tinnitus has been linked to causing depression, anxiety, sleepiness and emotional distress.

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