A condition that can occur at any age, tinnitus is a condition in which you hear a sound that comes from within your ear. The noise may be heard in both ears or just one, while some people report that the sound seems to come from the inside of their head.
Whether you suffer from tinnitus or are curious about the condition and its causes, it's important to remember that tinnitus is a little bit different for everyone – and we're here to bust a few commonly held myths.
Myth 1: It's a ringing sound
Although the word 'tinnitus' is Latin for 'ringing' – and many people describe tinnitus as a ringing noise – the condition can actually express itself in a variety of ways.
For example, a person with tinnitus might also hear a humming, buzzing, roaring, waving or whistling sound. In some cases, it's a pulsating sound that matches your heartbeat – some say it sounds like a butterfly flapping its wings near their head.
While the sounds heard in tinnitus are created within the inner ear and are usually inaudible to everyone else, in a few rare cases, it has been reported that other people can hear the sounds.
Myth 2: It's caused by loud noises
It's not fully understood what causes tinnitus or why people may suffer from the condition, and there seems to be a number of possible causes.
Temporary tinnitus may be the outcome of exposure to loud noises without wearing hearing protection, but it may also experienced by someone who has a cold or is recovering from a head injury. Sometimes tinnitus is caused by a build-up of earwax and can be remedied with ear drops or ear irrigation.
However, for most cases of long-term tinnitus, the cause remains unknown. The condition is rarely a symptom of a bigger problem, but if you do suffer from tinnitus, a hearing test is recommended.
Myth 3: Only older people suffer from tinnitus
You might think that tinnitus is a problem that's only experienced by the elderly but it's a condition that can occur at any age, and cases have even been discovered in young children.
Myth 4: It is a rare condition
It's actually believed that approximately ten per cent of people have some form of tinnitus. For most of these cases, the sound experienced is fairly quiet and it may come and go.
However, around one in 100 people experience severe tinnitus. This is characterised by a very loud sound, or one that is constant.
A person with severe tinnitus could have hearing difficulties, and it could lead to problems such as anxiousness, stress or even depression.
Myth 5: There is no treatment
While there is no known cure for tinnitus, various treatments can be provided to help people cope with the condition.
For example, certain relaxation techniques and sound therapy can be used to distract from the constant sound. Meanwhile some people with tinnitus find that wearing a hearing aid masks the constant noise.
There's also a treatment called TRT, or tinnitus retraining therapy, which works to teach the brain to ignore the noises caused by tinnitus. This therapy involves a combination of a sound generator and counselling sessions.