Learn more about the 4 main causes of tinnitus

  • tinnitus from noise damage
  • tinnitus from trauma or stress
  • tinnitus from allergies or sinus
  • tinnitus from meniere's disease

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Hearing High Pitch Sound: Tinnitus Explained

[imwb_socialbuzz] By John On September 6, 2011 Under Ringing In Ears

Millions of people suffer from hearing noises that only they can hear. The condition of incessant noise perception is called tinnitus. The noise originates internally, so a tinnitus sufferer hears the noise even if he covers his ears. Majority of people with this condition testify they are hearing high pitch sound. Tinnitus can be benign, but it can also be intrusive and can give rise to other problems like depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

How Tinnitus Occurs

Ringing in the ears or tinnitus is due to an abnormality in the auditory system. Usually it is caused by damage to the inner ears brought about by repeated exposure to loud noise. Since the beginning of industrialization, the world has become a noisier place. Technology somehow wrecked many ears.

Hearing High Pitch Sound

What happens is that loud noise destroys the tiny cells in the cochlea called the hair cells. These cells transmit auditory signals to the auditory nerve, which in turn transmits the impulses to the brain. The brain processes the impulses, and that is how you hear.

When hair cells are damaged, they function in a funny way. They fire random signals. The brain picks such random signals as noise. According to scientists, this is how you hear the internal noises. The bad thing is that damage to hair cells is irreversible. No cure has been invented yet to correct this damage.

Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Connection

Many people with tinnitus have some form of hearing loss, and at the same time many people with hearing loss also have tinnitus. The connection between is easy to understand, considering both are caused by similar factors. Noise that destroys the hair cells may cause sensorineural hearing loss as well as tinnitus. However, researchers have pointed out a more complex generation of tinnitus, in which the neural auditory pathways are involved. Activation of certain neural networks, for instance, has been observed in studies. Brain imaging scans have also displayed overactive sites in the brain in people with tinnitus.

Scientists believe that when people suffer from hearing loss, the brain tries to compensate to the lack of auditory input. Some neurons are activated and the brain’s awareness to any available impulse is heightened. This is responsible for the perception of internal noise that is usually absent in normal individuals. The brain’s awareness is heightened when it receives less amount of auditory impulse. This explains why even people without hearing loss may hear such phantom noise under extremely quiet conditions.

Degrees of Tinnitus

Most people with tinnitus suffer from mild ringing only. Mild tinnitus usually does not need medical attention because it only becomes apparent under quiet conditions. It cannot be heard during daytime amid the environmental noise. Moderate tinnitus is more intrusive, with sufferers hearing high pitch sound at certain times of the day. Moderate ringing in the ears can be managed through masking. Severe tinnitus is the most intrusive and may be present even when your surrounding is noise-laden. Simple masking will not alleviate severe tinnitus in most cases.

What Tinnitus Sounds Like

The experience of having tinnitus varies from person to person. Generally it sounds like a high pitch noise or a light high frequency sound that seems to cut through your ear. Some people say that they seem to hear a hovering noise. While many hear a high pitched single tone, others hear multiple tones. There are also cases of tinnitus which are described to have no tonal properties (thumping or roaring noises inside the ears). There is no exact explanation why such differences occur.

Unilateral and Bilateral Tinnitus

Tinnitus patients either hear one or both ears ringing. If only one ear is ringing, it’s called unilateral tinnitus. If both ears are ringing, it’s called bilateral tinnitus. More people suffer from unilateral tinnitus, but bilateral tinnitus is not uncommon either. One-side ringing is commonly associated with hearing damage or noise-induced damage and hearing loss. Other causes are Meniere’s disease or acoustic neuroma. Bilateral tinnitus occurs in a number of patients with cardiovascular problems. Many cases involve tinnitus that is more pronounced in one ear.

Subjective and Objective Tinnitus

A huge proportion of tinnitus statistics involves cases of subjective tinnitus. This type of tinnitus is only heard by the patient himself. More than 90 percent of the people with tinnitus have this form of the condition. No instrument has been invented yet that can detect the presence of this tinnitus. Doctors only rely on the testimony of the patient during the assessment. The amount of masking needed may determine the degree of tinnitus though.

Objective tinnitus can be detected by someone else. A doctor using his stethoscope can detect the noises heard by the patient, although not all the time. Objective tinnitus is commonly due to abnormal blood circulation in the ears or near the ears brought about by cardiovascular problems and abnormal formation of blood vessel networks in or around the ears.

Idiopathic Tinnitus

Treatment for tinnitus involves determining the cause. However, about half the cases of tinnitus have been reported to exist alone without a causative disorder. Since tinnitus is classified as a symptom and not a disorder, then it’s only appropriate that a disorder is present when tinnitus is diagnosed. The absence of a disorder indicates idiopathy. Idiopathic tinnitus is treated through conventional methods like masking, cognitive behavioral therapy, and alternative therapies.