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What Is Tinnitus?

An Early Indicator Of Hearing Loss

Many Canadians experience troublesome tinnitus – in fact this has been estimated to impact 10% of the adult population. Tinnitus experiences can include hissing, sizzling and ringing, but can also be experienced as grinding or machine-like sounds. In some cases, the sound can be a pulsation, at times in time with the pulse. The sound can be just in one ear, or in both.

For many people, these sounds are just a background experience, and not bothersome, but for some, tinnitus can become very burdensome indeed. In such cases, there can be problems with sleep, and with concentration, and in such instances therapy and support are urgently indicated.

In some cases, there is an obvious cause for tinnitus, such as noise-induced hearing loss, medication, or ear disease. In other cases however there is no obvious cause, or clear reason. If a person is concerned about the cause of their tinnitus, then a consultation with an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist is advisable.

What Signs Indicate Tinnitus?

Tinnitus symptoms can differ a lot from one person to another. You may perceive phantom sounds in one ear, both ears or your head. The phantom sound may whistle, buzz, roar, ring, hum, click, hiss, or squeal. The sound may be quiet or loud and may be high or low-pitched. It may be constant or intermittent. Sometimes, tinnitus symptoms may occur or temporarily alter the quality of the sound you hear when you move or touch your head, neck, eyes, or other body parts. This is known as somatosensory (pronounced so-ma-toe-SENSE-uh-ree) tinnitus.

Only you can hear the sounds in most cases of tinnitus, which are subjective. In rare cases, the sound beats in sync with your heartbeat, which is pulsatile. In these cases, a doctor may hear the sounds with a stethoscope and, if so, it is called objective tinnitus. Often, objective tinnitus can be treated and has a clear cause.

What Are The Origins Of Tinnitus?

The exact reasons for tinnitus are not fully known, but it has been connected to the following:

  • Noise exposure: Tinnitus is a common experience for many people after being exposed to loud noise in a work setting or at a sports event or concert. Tinnitus is also the most common service-related disability among veterans due to loud noise they may have encountered from gunfire, machinery, bomb blasts, or other similar sources.
  • Hearing loss: Hearing loss, which can result from factors such as aging or exposure to loud noise, is strongly linked to tinnitus. However, some people with hearing loss do not develop tinnitus.
  • Medications: Tinnitus can be a side effect of using certain medications, especially at high doses. Medications linked to tinnitus include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin), some antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, anti-malaria medications, and antidepressants.
  • Earwax or an ear infection: Tinnitus can be triggered by blockage of the ear canal by earwax or by fluid from an ear infection.
  • Head or neck injuries: Tinnitus can result from a head/neck injury that damages structures of the ear, the nerve that transmits sound signals to the brain, or parts of the brain that process sound.

What is Tinnitus? - Signs, Causes and Prevention Infographic source:

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If you believe you may be suffering from Tinnitus, contact our hearing specialists immediately and schedule an appointment for a consultation today.

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