Hearing management

04 November 2010

10 tinnitus facts

Here are some need-to-know facts about this condition.


Most of us take our senses for granted until something goes wrong with one of them. Can you imagine going through life with a roaring, ringing, hissing or whooshing noise in your head every day? That's what tinnitus sufferers have to deal with.

This video gives you an idea of what some tinnitus sufferers experience:

Here are some need-to-know facts about this condition.

  • Tinnitus is an auditory perception that is produced by external stimulus. It is described as a hissing, roaring, ringing or whooshing sound. It can also be tonal, ranging from high pitch to low pitch, multi-tonal or noise-like.
  • About 10-15% of the population has tinnitus. 1% reports that it is severe enough to affect their daily lives, but only 10% of adults will seek professional help. It may begin suddenly or manifest over time. It is more prevalent in males.
  • Tinnitus can be located in the ear or ears, or in the head. It could occur in one ear only or in both.
  • The most common difficulties people experience are getting to sleep, persistence of tinnitus, irritation, interrupted concentration and fear.
  • Tinnitus can be classified into two categories: objective and subjective. Objective tinnitus may or not be audible to a person, but it is audible to an observer with a stethoscope or simply listening in close proximity to the ear. In most cases objective tinnitus can be determined and treatment can be prescribed. Subjective tinnitus is audible only to the person and is the most common form.
  • The cause of subjective tinnitus is still being researched. Subjective tinnitus is a symptom that is associated with every known otologic disorder.
  • Factors that trigger tinnitus include physical conditions such a hearing loss, psychological issues and stress.
  • Diagnosis is made through a clinical examination and consists of a medical and audiological evaluation. A neurological and/or psychological evaluation may also be required.  
  • Treatment is aimed at eliminating the disease causing tinnitus rather than alleviating the symptom. However, because the causes of tinnitus are unknown or either untreatable, treatment has been focused on symptom control. Management of tinnitus includes surgery, drug therapy, nutritional management, masking (this is when sound is used to cover up or alter the production of tinnitus), electrical stimulation and cochlear implants.
  • Counselling is also an important factor in treatment and management. It is critical to allow a tinnitus sufferer to express his or her feelings.

(Health24, November 2010)


Robert W Sweeto, An Overview of Tinnitus Patient Management, Tinnitus Overview


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Hearing Expert

Heidi Allan is a qualified audiologist and speech-language therapist with 28 years experience both in South Africa and the Netherlands. I am a member of the American Academy of Audiology, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, the South African Speech-Language Hearing Association and the South African Audiology Association. I have held leadership roles at both provincial and national level in my profession and deliver presentations across the country on aspects of audiology. My areas of particular interest include Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD), hearing aid fitting and rehabilitation, diagnostic audiology and public education.

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