Tinnitus is the perception of ringing in the ears. While it is perceived in the ear, it actually occurs in the brain. When the delicate hair cells inside the cochlea are damaged or overstimulated, the result is tinnitus.
To date, there is no cure for this condition. The number of people affected is growing fast, and statistics show that one in five people suffer from tinnitus. Tinnitus is also the leading “souvenir” that veterans retain from service. On average, one in every 10 American adults is affected by tinnitus.
Although tinnitus is often described as ‘ringing in the ears,’ the variety of sounds and combinations that people perceive are widespread. The noise can sound like roaring, hissing, humming, clicking, or buzzing. It may also vary in pitch, from a low roar to a high squeal.
The onset and cause are as varied as the sounds people hear. Regardless of how it began and what it sounds like, tinnitus can range from a bothersome condition to a debilitating one, impacting not only the day–to–day lives of the individuals affected, but their families and loved ones as well. The sound may be present all the time, or it may come and go.
There are two kinds of tinnitus: subjective tinnitus and objective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is the most common type of tinnitus, and can only be heard by the person experiencing it. The sound may be perceived in one ear or both ears. Objective tinnitus is a rarer form of tinnitus. Unlike subject tinnitus, object tinnitus can also be detected by another person, such as a doctor.