Tinnitus is a serious health issue for those who suffer from it. Tinnitus is noises heard anywhere in the head or in one or both ears. It can be a constant ringing, buzzing or whistling in the ears, 24 hours a day.
Almost all of us experience tinnitus temporarily; perhaps for a few hours after a concert or any other occasion where our ears are subjected to noise. Tinnitus becomes a problem when this noise persists and/or increases. Normally, the ringing in the ears will disappear, but it may also become permanent. Tinnitus is common in people over the age of 40, but is becoming increasingly prevalent in younger people, as well, because of increased daily noise levels, including those caused by the unrestrained use of MP3s, iPods and other personal stereos.
Research* found that just one in 123 tinnitus patients suffered no hearing loss. In the majority, a connection was found between the nature of their hearing loss and how they experienced the ringing in their ears. The researchers examined the degree of hearing loss in the tinnitus patients and the reasons for their hearing loss. The results were collated with the patients’ descriptions of how they experienced their tinnitus so as to examine whether there was any connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. The results indicated that patients suffering from age or noise related hearing loss generally experience their tinnitus as a constant high pitched sound. Patients whose hearing loss was caused by Ménières disease or similar syndromes experienced their tinnitus as a varied and low hum. This indicates an association between tinnitus and hearing impairment.
Associations were also found between the degree of hearing loss and the frequencies of low hearing. The frequency of the tinnitus noise as described by the study participants was mostly directly related to the measured frequencies of their hearing loss. The loudness of the experienced tinnitus also corresponded to the degree of hearing loss.
The researchers believe that various measurements of the patients’ hearing may provide a simple and indirect test on which an evaluation of tinnitus levels may be based. In the treatment of tinnitus, it is particularly important to be able to record changes in the patient’s experience of his or her tinnitus.
*Source: Characteristics of Tinnitus and Etiology of Associated Hearing Loss: A Study of 123 Patients, International Tinnitus Journal, 2002.