Tinnitus is a perception of sound. It originates inside the head. It is real. It is involuntary. It cannot be produced intentionally. Some people perceive it has a ringing, a hissing, a hum, or a pulsing. It varies from individual to individual.
The causes of tinnitus are varied ranging from hearing loss, noise exposure, head trauma, side effects from medication, dietary issues, and other medical issues. In most cases, the cause of tinnitus is harmless. Seeking medical advice is important especially if you have persistent tinnitus, tinnitus in one ear only, your tinnitus is accompanied by dizziness and/or balance issues, or your unilateral tinnitus has a vascular or pulsatile cause.
A well-accepted theory on tinnitus generation is that of spontaneous activity in the hearing system. When the outer hair cells in the inner ear get damaged, they do not function normally. Outer hair cells are supposed to keep the inner hair cells from sending signals to the brain when there is no sound to be heard. When the outer cells aren’t working properly, the inner hair cells can spontaneously send signals to the brain that are amplified. These spontaneously amplified signals are perceived as a ringing sensation.
Many people experience tinnitus. For some people, it comes and goes. It is not bothersome. For others, tinnitus can have negative effects on day-to-day life. These negative effects can create a vicious cycle that affects other areas in the brain; namely, the limbic system (having to do with emotions) and the autonomic nervous system (having to do with physical/bodily reactions).
For most tinnitus patients, there is no known cure. However, there are treatment options that can help provide significant relief from tinnitus