The word tinnitus (pronounced either ti-NIGHT-us or TIN-i-tus) is of Latin origin, meaning “to tinkle or ring like a bell”. Put simply, tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears or head where no external source is present. Some people refer to it as “ringing in the ears”, or “head noise”.
In almost all cases, tinnitus is a subjective noise, meaning that only the person who has tinnitus can hear it. People describe hearing different sounds: ringing, crickets, whooshing, pulsing, ocean waves, buzzing, dial tones, and even music. Tinnitus can be constant or intermittent, and can be heard in one ear, both ears, or the head. Tinnitus can originate in the middle ear (behind the eardrum), or in the sensorineural auditory system.
Tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss. In fact, even Deaf individuals can have tinnitus. In other cases, individuals with tinnitus may also suffer from hyperacusis, where moderately loud sounds are perceived as very loud. Approximately 16 percent of all adults suffer from tinnitus, and for a quarter of those the problem is severe enough that it interferes with their everyday life. Because tinnitus can be a symptom of a more serious disorder, it is important to have an appropriate health evaluation, from an audiologist or physician.
Technology offers some hope for tinnitus sufferers. To learn more about specially designed sleep masks, sound therapy machines and sleep therapy pillows, click here.