Tinnitus or ringing in the ears is the feeling of hearing ringing, hissing, buzzing, chirping, whistling, clicking or other sounds. The sound can be continuous or broken and can differ in volume. It is generally worsened when background noise is low, so you may feel it more during the night when you're trying sleep in a silent room. In very rare cases, the sound beats in sync with your heart and the condition is known as pulsatile tinnitus.
Although inconvenient, tinnitus generally isn't a sign of something serious. Sometimes, however, tinnitus can cause people to have difficulty concentrating and sleeping. It may ultimately interfere with work and personal relationships which may cause psychological distress.
Though Age affects tinnitus, it can be improved with treatment. Treating an underlying cause also helps at times. Other treatments decrease or mask the noise and make the tinnitus less noticeable.
Several health conditions may cause or worsen tinnitus. However, in most cases, an exact reason is never found. A very common reason for tinnitus is internal ear hair cell damage. Little, delicate hairs in your inner ear move in the pressure of sound waves. This triggers cells to release an electrical signal by a nerve from your ear (auditory nerve) to your brain. Your brain reads these signals as sound. If the hairs present in your inner ear are bent or broken, they can leak random electrical impulses to your brain and cause tinnitus.
Some common conditions that may cause tinnitus are:
Generally, hearing worsens with age and hearing loss can cause tinnitus.
Loud sounds are a common cause of noise-related hearing loss. Music systems also can cause noise-related hearing loss if played loudly for a long time. Tinnitus due to short-term exposure, like attending a loud concert, generally goes away; both short and long term exposure to loud noise can cause permanent damage.
Earwax normally protects your ear canal through trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria. However, when too much earwax builds up, it doesn’t wash away naturally, causing hearing loss or irritation of the eardrum, that can lead to tinnitus.
Tinnitus can be caused by stiffening of the bones in your middle ear (otosclerosis)
Some other causes may include: