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Tinnitus

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Tinnitus definition

Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound when there is no external source present. While most people think of tinnitus as ringing in the ears, the noise can also be a hiss, a buzz, a click or any other sound. The noise may be continuous or may occur intermittently. It may be pulsatile (throbbing) or constant and its pitch may be high or low.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease, and it has a variety of causes that may arise anywhere in the hearing mechanism. It begins in the ear with the tympanic membrane and the cochlea, where sound is transmitted into electrical energy for the brain to perceive.

  • Tinnitus that is throbbing (pulsatile) may be due to blood flow through arteries and veins adjacent to the ear, as well as tumors that are vascular, having increased blood flow within them.
  • Tinnitus that is described as clicking may be due to abnormalities that cause the muscle in the roof of the mouth (palate) to go into spasm. This causes the Eustachian tube, which helps equalize pressure in the ears, to repeatedly open and close. Multiple sclerosis and other neurologic diseases that are associated with muscle spasms may also be a cause of tinnitus, as they may also lead to spasms of certain muscles in the middle ear that can cause the repetitive clicking.
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) abnormalities may cause a repeated clicking sound in the ear.
  • Damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve, responsible for transmitting sound from the ear to the brain may cause tinnitus. This may be due to drug toxicity or tumor (for example, acoustic neuroma).
  • Meniere's disease, which is associated with hearing loss and vertigo, may also cause tinnitus.
  • As people age, their hearing may decrease and there can be associated tinnitus.
  • Otosclerosis, which is caused by abnormal bone growth in the middle ear, can sometimes cause tinnitus.
  • Trauma may also be a cause of tinnitus and hearing loss. This includes barotrauma, whereby air pressure changes can damage ear function.

Picture of the Ear Anatomy
Picture of the Ear Anatomy
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/22/2013

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Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/tinnitus_ringing_in_the_ears/article.htm

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