Symptoms of tinnitus include a noise in the ears, such as a ringing, roaring, ringing, whistling, or whistling sound; the noise may be intermittent or continuous. Most of the time, only the person who has tinnitus can hear it (subjective tinnitus). Tinnitus occurs when you experience ringing or other noises in one or both ears. The noise you hear when you have tinnitus isn't caused by an external sound, and other people usually can't hear it.
It affects approximately 15 to 20% of people and is especially common in older adults. The sound varies from high to low pitch and can be a single, multi-tone, or noise-like tone, with no tonal quality. Tinnitus can be constant, pulsating, or intermittent. It may start suddenly or progress gradually.
If the cause is temporary, such as an ear infection or a loud noise, tinnitus is most likely temporary as well. For many people, tinnitus improves with treatment of the underlying cause or with other treatments that reduce or mask noise, making tinnitus less noticeable. For about 12 million Americans, tinnitus is a constant, noisy companion that affects their daily lives. Your doctor will work with you to help you find ways to reduce the severity of noise and its impact on your life.
You can also share this resource with your primary care provider, audiologist, family and friends, to get an idea of the noise in your head. Anything you can do to limit your exposure to loud noises by moving away from the sound, lowering the volume, or using earplugs or earmuffs will help prevent tinnitus or prevent it from getting worse. People working in noisy environments, such as factory or construction workers, road workers, or even musicians, can develop tinnitus over time when continuous exposure to noise damages the tiny sensory hair cells in the inner ear that help transmit sound to the brain. If you've been exposed to loud noises and tinnitus goes away quickly, it's usually not something that needs to be diagnosed.
In most cases, tinnitus is subjective noise, meaning that only the person who has tinnitus can hear it. Noise-induced hearing loss, a result of damage to sensory hair cells in the inner ear, is one of the most common causes of tinnitus. Tinnitus sounds can vary in pitch, from a low roar to a loud squeak, and may be heard in one or both ears.