Tinnitus is characterized by a ringing, buzzing, pulsing or whooshing sound in one or both ears. Affecting approximately 10% of the U.S. adult population, tinnitus can be a constant or infrequent companion to many people’s lives.
Tinnitus is broken into two broad categories: subjective and objective.
Subjective tinnitus accounts for 99% of tinnitus cases and is usually attributed to auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, loud noise exposure, physical trauma and more.
Objective tinnitus is far rarer, accounting for less than 1% of cases. Objective tinnitus is audible to other people and is usually a result of internal body functions from the body’s circulatory system or musculoskeletal movement.
Tinnitus can be further broken down into smaller categories, including primary, secondary, pulsatile and somatic. Let’s take a look at what makes each of these categories different and why it can be beneficial to know how to discuss your tinnitus.
The Four Categories of Tinnitus
- Primary tinnitus. Primary tinnitus is most often associated with inner ear hearing loss (sensorineural hearing loss). One theory as to why primary tinnitus occurs has to do with auditory deprivation. When the auditory center has decreased input from hearing loss, the brain creates its own noise in the form of tinnitus.
- Secondary tinnitus. Secondary tinnitus is associated with sources other than hearing loss, including loud noise exposure, physical trauma, Eustachian tube dysfunction, ear infections and ototoxic medication (medication that causes damage to the hearing mechanisms of the ear).
- Somatic tinnitus. Somatic tinnitus is triggered or changed in response to sensory changes in the body like muscle spasms, jaw clenching and movement of the shoulders, neck and head.
- Pulsatile tinnitus. Pulsatile tinnitus is caused by conditions within the body, including high blood pressure, anemia, Paget’s disease and more. Because the sound comes from within the body, it is often likened to a rhythmic pulsing, thumping or whooshing sound similar to a heartbeat. While many people will hear their heartbeat during strenuous exercise, those with pulsatile tinnitus will hear it without exertion.
How To Discuss Your Tinnitus
Because most cases of tinnitus cannot be heard by the examiner, the condition is often diagnosed based on a description of symptoms. Knowing how to discuss your tinnitus can help your provider make an accurate diagnosis and symptom management plan.
Tell your provider about the specific sounds you’re hearing, any apparent triggers you notice and the frequency and duration of the tinnitus bouts. For instance if you notice tinnitus after a trip to Serene Beans, caffeine may be a trigger. Based on your symptoms, your provider may suggest hearing aids or sound machines for sound masking, therapy, relaxation techniques or a combination of all methods.
To learn more about managing your tinnitus, contact Today's Hearing today to make an appointment with one of our specialists.