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Tinnitus

Sensation of a ringing, roaring, or buzzing sound in the ears or head. It is often associated with many forms of hearing impairment and noise exposure.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders)

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing in the ears, but it also can sound like roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing. It may be soft or loud, high pitched or low pitched. You might hear it in either one or both ears. Roughly 10 percent of the adult population of the United States has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year. This amounts to nearly 25 million Americans.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus (pronounced tin-NY-tus or TIN-u-tus) is not a disease. It is a symptom that something is wrong in the auditory system, which includes the ear, the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain, and the parts of the brain that process sound. Something as simple as a piece of earwax blocking the ear canal can cause tinnitus....Read more about Tinnitus NIH - National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) for tinnitus

Tinnitus is described as the perception of sound or noise in the absence of real acoustic stimulation. Tinnitus may be perceived in one or both ears, within the head or outside the body. Although various theories have been suggested, the cause is not fully understood. A wide range of treatments have been used, but none has been found effective in all patients.

Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus

People with tinnitus hear sounds such as crackling or whistling in the absence of external noise. Noises appear to arise in the ears or inside the head and may be experienced all of the time, or only intermittently. The causes of tinnitus are not yet fully understood and a variety of treatments are offered including medication, psychotherapy, noise 'maskers' and tinnitus retraining therapy. The review of trials assessed the effectiveness of extract of Ginkgo biloba. Few good‐quality trials were found. Four studies were included in the review, with a total of 1543 participants. The included studies were overall at low risk of bias. There was no evidence that Ginkgo biloba is effective for tinnitus when this is the primary complaint.

Hyperbaric oxygen for sudden hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) of unknown cause

Idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (ISSHL) is common and often results in permanent hearing loss. It therefore has a high impact on the well‐being of those affected. Tinnitus (abnormal persistent noises or ringing in the ear) is similarly common and often accompanies the hearing loss. Although the cause of these complaints is not clear, they may be related to a lack of oxygen secondary to a vascular problem not yet identified. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen in a specially designed chamber and it is sometimes used as a treatment to increase the supply of oxygen to the ear and brain in an attempt to reduce the severity of hearing loss and tinnitus.

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Summaries for consumers

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) for tinnitus

Tinnitus is described as the perception of sound or noise in the absence of real acoustic stimulation. Tinnitus may be perceived in one or both ears, within the head or outside the body. Although various theories have been suggested, the cause is not fully understood. A wide range of treatments have been used, but none has been found effective in all patients.

Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus

People with tinnitus hear sounds such as crackling or whistling in the absence of external noise. Noises appear to arise in the ears or inside the head and may be experienced all of the time, or only intermittently. The causes of tinnitus are not yet fully understood and a variety of treatments are offered including medication, psychotherapy, noise 'maskers' and tinnitus retraining therapy. The review of trials assessed the effectiveness of extract of Ginkgo biloba. Few good‐quality trials were found. Four studies were included in the review, with a total of 1543 participants. The included studies were overall at low risk of bias. There was no evidence that Ginkgo biloba is effective for tinnitus when this is the primary complaint.

Hyperbaric oxygen for sudden hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) of unknown cause

Idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (ISSHL) is common and often results in permanent hearing loss. It therefore has a high impact on the well‐being of those affected. Tinnitus (abnormal persistent noises or ringing in the ear) is similarly common and often accompanies the hearing loss. Although the cause of these complaints is not clear, they may be related to a lack of oxygen secondary to a vascular problem not yet identified. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen in a specially designed chamber and it is sometimes used as a treatment to increase the supply of oxygen to the ear and brain in an attempt to reduce the severity of hearing loss and tinnitus.

See all (27)

Terms to know

Auditory Nerve (Cochlea Nerve)
Connects the inner ear to the brainstem and is responsible for hearing and balance.
Brain
The part of the central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium).
Ear
A sense organ needed for the detection of sound and for establishing balance.
Hearing
The perception of sound by the ear.
Hearing Loss
A general term for the complete or partial loss of the ability to hear from one or both ears.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Hearing loss resulting from either chronic exposure to loud noises, or exposure to extremely loud bursts of noise.

More about Tinnitus

Photo of an adult

Also called: Ringing in the Ears

Other terms to know: See all 6
Auditory Nerve (Cochlea Nerve), Brain, Ear

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