Tinnitus is often described as the perception of noise independent of any external source of sound. With subjective tinnitus, the individual is the only person able to perceive the noise, which may present as hissing, buzzing, or ringing. In such cases, noise can be perceived in one or both ears, as coming from inside the head, or located around the head with no direction apparent.
In other cases, noise may seem to originate from within the individual's body; this is a rare condition known as objective tinnitus and is usually prompted by a vascular disorder or spasmodic muscle movement. Tinnitus caused or influenced by sensory input from the body is also known as somatic tinnitus.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, primary tinnitus may present with hearing loss or with no identifiable cause. Secondary tinnitus has a known and diagnosed cause. Pulsatile tinnitus is generally recognized as a noise that is rhythmic like a heartbeat.
Some individuals experience tinnitus seldom enough or at such a low level that it can be classed as "no bothersome", in which case tinnitus has only a small impact on quality of life. In other cases, tinnitus may classed as "bothersome", meaning it is severe enough to cause significant disruption to quality of life.
In general, there is no cure for tinnitus, but those who have "bothersome" tinnitus in addition to hearing loss can often find some relief with the use of a hearing aid combined with external sound stimuli, such as a metronome, white noise, or music delivered through wearable or non-wearable devices.
An audiologist can help diagnose and make recommendations for the mitigation of tinnitus side effects. If necessary, hearing aids can be fitted for those who present both with tinnitus and hearing loss, to help provide clearer hearing of real noise and dampen down the effects of perceived noise.
Tinnitus is often described as the perception of noise independent of any external source of sound. With subjective tinnitus, the individual is the only person able to perceive the noise, which may present as hissing, buzzing, or ringing.