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Tinnitus is described as the perception of ringing or buzzing noises in one or both ears. The perception of these noises is often described as phantom sounds since there’s no actual external sound source.

Although tinnitus affects roughly 15-20% of people, it’s not a condition in itself. Tinnitus is commonly known to be a symptom of other underlying health conditions such as circulatory system disorders. Tinnitus can be caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises, head injury, stress, and the buildup of earwax.

Tinnitus can occur constantly or occasionally. However, despite its debilitating nature, tinnitus doesn’t usually indicate anything severe or life-threatening.

Types and Causes of Tinnitus

Given that tinnitus is relatively common and affects people differently, it would make sense for there to be different types of tinnitus. A different factor causes each type of tinnitus. The four examples of tinnitus include:

Subjective Tinnitus

The most common type, subjective tinnitus, is often caused by exposure to loud noises. This type of tinnitus may recur periodically over 3-12 months at a time. However, in severe cases, it can be perpetual.

Neurological Tinnitus

The underlying cause of neurological tinnitus mostly includes disorders that affect the auditory system and how the brain processes sound; like Meniere’s disease.

Somatic Tinnitus

Somatic tinnitus typically relates to factors and conditions that affect the sensory system. An example of this would be involuntary muscle contractions.

Objective Tinnitus

Being the only form that can be heard by an observer, objective tinnitus is caused by vascular deformities or involuntary muscle contractions.

Treatment of Tinnitus

Although there are no known treatments that inhibit tinnitus, there are measures that can be taken to make it more tolerable and manageable. Dr Makhaye may recommend the following:

  • Treating underlying health conditions
    - Treating vascular conditions and changing medications that may affect tinnitus
  • Noise suppression
    - Using white noise machines or masking devices to suppress the noise, making it more tolerable
  • Medication
    - Anxiety and depression medications may help alleviate tinnitus