Our hearing plays a major role in how we go about our everyday life activities. So when someone experiences problems with their hearing, it’s important to understand the cause of their hearing impairment. One common hearing problem people experience is a ringing that no one else can hear. This is called tinnitus, which more than 50 million Americans experience. So, what exactly is tinnitus?

What is Tinnitus?

This condition occurs when someone has a perception of sound, like a ringing noise, when there isn’t actually an external noise. People with this condition can hear ringing, buzzing, hissing, clicking, and sometimes even music. This is one of the most common conditions in the U.S. and while it can be temporary, many people face a chronic form. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Hearing loss
  • Auditory trauma
  • Recurring infections
  • Medicines
  • Head trauma
  • Stress
  • Dental problems

While there are several causes of tinnitus, there are two main types of the condition: subjective and objective. The subjective type is more common, with over 99% of tinnitus cases being diagnosed as subjective.

Subjective vs. Objective

Subjective tinnitus is generally caused by auditory and neurological reactions due to hearing loss or damage. However, it can be caused by other factors. While subjective patients are the only ones who can hear the ringing or buzzing noises, brain scans of patients can show that their brains are reacting to the sounds they’re hearing.

Objective tinnitus, on the other hand, is caused by a physical occurrence. It can be caused by increased blood flow, vibrations in the ear, or overused muscles in the ear. In the case of objective patients, the sounds they’re hearing may be audible to others as well.

Overall, the main difference between subjective and objective types is how the noises are heard. Subjective noises are only heard by the patient due to the cause being internal, while objective noises can be heard by others if the cause of the noise is external.

If you suspect you may be experiencing this condition, it’s important to visit a hearing clinic. An audiologist will be able to diagnose your condition and move in the direction of discovering the cause and discussing treatment options from there.