Tinnitus (pronounced /tɪˈnaɪtəs/ or /ˈtɪnɪtəs/, from the Latin word tinnītus meaning "ringing") is the perception of sound within the human ear in the absence of corresponding external sound.
Tinnitus is not a disease, but a symptom that can result from a wide range of underlying causes: abnormally loud sounds in the ear canal for even the briefest period (but usually with some duration), ear infections, foreign objects in the ear, nose allergies that prevent (or induce) fluid drain, or wax build-up. Withdrawal from a benzodiazepine addiction may cause Tinnitus as well. In-ear headphones via sound entered directly into the ear canal itself, without any opportunity to be deflected or absorbed elsewhere, are a popular cause of Tinnitus with volume set beyond modest or moderate levels.
Tinnitus can also be caused by natural hearing impairment (as in aging), as a side effect of some medications, and as a side effect of genetic (congenital) hearing loss. However, the most common cause for tinnitus is noise-induced hearing loss.
As tinnitus is usually a subjective phenomenon, it is difficult to measure using objective tests, such as by comparison with noise of known frequency and intensity, as in an audiometric test. The condition is often rated clinically on a simple scale from "slight" to "catastrophic" according to the practical difficulties it imposes, such as interference with sleep, quiet activities, and normal daily activities.
Tinnitus is common. About one in five people between 55 and 65 years old report tinnitus symptoms on a general health questionnaire and 11.8% on more detailed tinnitus-specific questionnaires.
Tinnitus can be perceived in one or both ears or in the head. It is usually described as a ringing noise, but in some patients it takes the form of a high pitched whining, electric, buzzing, hissing, screaming, humming, tinging or whistling sound, or as ticking, clicking, roaring, "crickets" or "tree frogs" or "locusts (cicadas)", tunes, songs, beeping, or even a pure steady tone like that heard during a hearing test. It has also been described as a "wooshing" sound, as of wind or waves. Tinnitus can be intermittent or it can be continuous in which case it can be the cause of great distress. In some individuals, the intensity of tinnitus can be changed by shoulder, head, tongue, jaw, or eye movements.
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