Tinnitus is the hearing of sound when no external sound is present.[ While often described as a ringing, it may also sound like a clicking, hiss or roaring. Rarely, unclear voices or music are heard. The sound may be soft or loud, low pitched or high pitched and appear to be coming from one ear or both. Most of the time, it comes on gradually. In some people, the sound causes depression, anxiety or interferes with concentration.
Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom that can result from a number of underlying causes. One of the most common causes is noise-induced hearing loss. Other causes include: ear infections, disease of the heart or blood vessels, Ménière’s disease, brain tumors, emotional stress, exposure to certain medications, a previous head injury, and earwax. It is more common in those with depression.
The diagnosis of tinnitus is usually based on the person’s description. A number of questionnaires exist that assess how much tinnitus is interfering with a person’s life. The diagnosis is commonly assisted with an audiogram and neurological exam. If certain problems are found, medical imaging, such as with MRI, may be performed. Other tests are suitable when tinnitus occurs with the same rhythm as the heartbeat. Occasionally, the sound may be heard by someone else using a stethoscope, in which case it is known as objective tinnitus.