What is Tinnitus?

It’s one of the most misunderstood health disorders. Tinnitus and hearing loss may cause significant irritation and anxiety, making it one of the most disruptive problems in life.


Tinnitus is a hearing condition in which noise, such as such as buzzing, ringing, or whistling, is heard in the ear without an external stimulus. It is involuntary in that it originates in the head. It is usually caused by one or more medical problems, which we will discuss.

Tinnitus is a quite common problem. It affects 15% to 20% of people and is troublesome enough to interrupt the lives of at least 1%. The affliction often comes with the aging process.

  • Tinnitus may be continuous or sporadic.
  • The type, frequency, and intensity of noise will vary from person to person.
  • The sounds can be low-pitched, high-pitched, or even a tone that changes between high and low.

2 Types of Tinnitus

  1. Subjective tinnitus: tinnitus only the person who has it can hear. This is the most common type of tinnitus.
  2. Objective tinnitus: a phenomenon a physician can actually hear when he or she examines the patient. It can be caused by muscle contractions, a blood vessel problem, or a middle ear bone condition. This type is exceedingly rare.

Facts & Myths About Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

There is much misunderstanding and a lot or erroneous information about tinnitus. Here are some statements about Tinnitus, some of which are true and some of which are false:

    1. Tinnitus causes hearing loss. FALSE. While tinnitus and hearing loss are often associated conditions, one does not cause the other. However, both tinnitus and hearing loss often have the same cause, so it is not surprising that very often people have both.
    2. Tinnitus causes dementia. FALSE. Deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, judgment, and concentration result from an organic disease or a disorder of the brain, not from tinnitus.
    3. Tinnitus can affect mental health. TRUE. Depending on the severity, consistency, and intensity of the disorder, frustration, anxiety, and depression can be a result of tinnitus.

Causes of Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

First let us consider the causes of hearing loss. Hearing loss is most often caused by damage to the fragile hair-like cells of the inner ear. These cells can be damaged by:

  • Excessively loud noise (especially loud noise over a long period of time).
  • Illness or infection at any age
  • The normal changes and wear your body experiences as it ages
  • Certain medications
  • Head injury

Tinnitus is caused by those same cells that have been damaged. Even though the cells may not be sensing the sound waves around you, they do still fire sometimes. This sends random electrical signals into the brain. For this reason, tinnitus is most evident in a quiet place. As your hearing loss worsens, or as more cells are damaged, your tinnitus may also worsen. This is why many people believe that tinnitus causes hearing loss!

“Tinnitus can be compared to a wire with some of the insulation missing!”

Is there a cure?

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for tinnitus. However, there is treatment, including different forms of therapy. But we must understand that the tinnitus itself CANNOT be reduced by:

  • Medications
  • Supplements
  • Surgery

How then can the Tinnitus patient be helped?

While the tinnitus itself cannot be reduced by the above treatments, there are effective remedies and forms of therapy for those who suffer from this malady. Let’s consider first, treatment for some of the common problems which may accompany this disorder. There are effective drugs and treatment for:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hearing Loss

Tinnitus and stress are often related. Here is a principle emphasized by Doug Dunker, the founder of Prescott Hearing Center:

“The more you think about your tinnitus, the more you think about your tinnitus!”

For those who suffer from this complicated problem, the dilemma just keeps getting bigger and bigger! The primary areas that tinnitus affects are:

  • Thoughts and Emotions
  • Hearing Difficulties
  • Sleeping Patterns
  • Concentration

“A single sound can create a different emotional response from each person.”

Because we all have different pasts and frames of reference, the sound of, say, a doorbell, can cause a reaction of:

  • Alarm, if you are not expecting anyone
  • Fright, if you think it might be someone who will do you harm
  • Happiness, if you think it likely a friend or family member

Regarding the noises produced by tinnitus, if we learn to change the interpretation of its importance, we can find ourselves less disturbed by the sounds. Engaging in activities we enjoy may be a part of the solution, things like bike riding, golfing, fishing, or hiking.

“My hearing is fine. I just have this ringing in my ears!”

To clarify, there is about an 80% overlap between tinnitus and hearing loss. Usually what we find is, there is indeed hearing loss. The hearing loss as been building up slowly for years, or even decades. The tinnitus can spring up quite suddenly. When hearing aids are prescribed and properly programmed, the amplification can even remove the dominance of the unwanted noise!

Have You Had Your Hearing Checked?

A three-part hearing test by a hearing specialist is quick and easy. When hearing aids are appropriate, they are usually a huge step toward relieving the effects of tinnitus.

Hearing aids can be programmed for tinnitus masking, enabling people with hearing loss to hear sounds they would otherwise miss. This can help to take the focus from the noise disturbance. Hearing everything going on around you can surprisingly provide great relief! Hearing aids for can even be programmed by a good specialist to contrast the internal sound of tinnitus.

In Summary

  • There is no cure for Tinnitus.
  • There are treatment options available.
  • Tinnitus and hearing loss are often related.
  • Hearing aids are often an effective treatment for tinnitus.

Doug Dunker, your hearing care specialist, at Prescott Hearing Center, can fit you with the best hearing aids for tinnitus with sound therapy for your unique circumstances. Why not discover the relief that is possible? Do you have questions? Call the experts at Prescott Hearing Center today at 928-899-8104. Prescott Hearing Center is located at 3108 Clearwater Drive, Suite B2, Prescott, AZ 86305.

Other Articles on Tinnitus

“Will Hearing Aids Help My Tinnitus?”

“Will Hearing Aids Help My Tinnitus?”

Tinnitus is a condition in which noise, such as buzzing, ringing, or whistling, is heard in the ear without an external stimulus. Tinnitus and hearing loss share an 80% overlap; therefore, a hearing evaluation is the best place to start.

Tinnitus and Hearing Aids | Prescott Hearing Center

Tinnitus and Hearing Aids | Prescott Hearing Center

Although tinnitus doesn’t cause hearing loss, the perceived sound from tinnitus can make it extremely difficult to concentrate. It can also be quite challenging to focus the mind on real sounds. Hearing aids for tinnitus can be a very effective way to treat tinnitus...