Ringing, buzzing, chirping and humming. No, I'm not describing things that fly. These are in fact common descriptions of sounds heard by patients suffering from tinnitus. Tinnitus is the subjective (heard by the patient only) perception of sound in the absence of a sound source. Rarely, tinnitus can also be described as objective (heard by others as well).Tinnitus is an incredibly frustrating and distracting symptom caused by a multitude of causes, one that affects some 30 million Americans. Common sources of tinnitus include:
- Hearing loss as a result of aging and/or genetics.
- History of exposure to loud sounds (e.g., heavy machinery, firearms, and excessively loud music).
- Trauma injury to the ear.
- Medication side effect. Various over-the-counter and prescription medications report tinnitus as a side effect, including daily aspirin consumption. Tinnitus of this nature may be permanent or temporary, depending on the drug.
- Ear wax. The presence of ear wax that significantly occludes the ear canals can result in temporary tinnitus. Always consult your physician before starting any at-home management of ear wax removal.
- Vestibular schwannoma. Rare but possible cause of tinnitus often characterized by tinnitus in one ear, accompanied by hearing loss in the same ear. This is a non-cancerous mass, located on a nerve in the vestibular part of the inner ear, and may require surgery.
- Unknown. Unfortunately there are often times when the cause of tinnitus is unknown.