Tinnitus is a noise perceived in the ears or head that does not come from an external sound source. People often describe tinnitus as ringing, buzzing, hissing or humming, and the noise can be low, medium or high-pitched. The noise can be constant or it can come and go.
Tinnitus is often more noticeable in quieter situations such as a quiet room or at bedtime. During the daytime, activity and background sound may partially “mask” or cover up the tinnitus, making it less noticeable. As a result, it may seem like tinnitus is louder at night or at bedtime, even though the tinnitus volume has likely stayed the same.
The severity of an individual’s tinnitus depends on their emotional reaction and attitude toward the tinnitus. Two people may report very similar tinnitus characteristics, but one may not be bothered by it while the other finds that it greatly interferes with their everyday life.
According to the Canadian Academy of Audiology, an estimated 10-15% of Canadians suffer from tinnitus. 20% of these individuals seek help for their tinnitus because it has a significant negative impact on their lives.
Dr. Pawel Jastreboff, of the Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Center, suggests that tinnitus affects 17% of people worldwide, and causes significant suffering in 4% of the general population. He also estimates that 40% of people with tinnitus also experience hyperacusis, an increased sensitivity to sounds.
- Tinnitus affects 17% of people worldwide 17% 17%
- 10-15% of Canadians Suffer from Tinnitus 15% 15%
- Only 20% of Canadians suffering from tinnitus seek help 20% 20%
- 40% of tinnitus sufferers also experience increased sensitivity to sound 40% 40%
Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus itself is not a disease or illness, and it is rarely a sign of a serious disorder. It is noise generated by the auditory system, sometimes (but not always) due to damage in the hearing pathway.
The exact cause of tinnitus is not yet fully understood, but the most common causes of tinnitus seem to be:
- Loud noise exposure
- Age-related hearing loss
- Head injuries, such as whiplash or concussion
- Excessive earwax near the eardrum
Less common causes of tinnitus include:
- High doses of certain medications (e.g. aspirin, quinine, chemotherapeutic agents)
- Non-malignant vestibular nerve tumour
- Medical conditions such as high or low blood pressure, diabetes or allergies
Click here to learn how we treat Tinnitus.
Noise exposure is the leading cause of tinnitus, so the best way to prevent tinnitus is to protect your hearing. Detailed information about hearing loss prevention is available in the Hearing Loss Prevention section of this website.
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