How Common Is Tinnitus?

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Tinnitus, a disorder often characterized by ear ringing, affects millions worldwide. Recent studies suggest that about 20 percent of individuals have had tinnitus at some point in their lives, and 10 to 15 percent experience it on an ongoing basis. This article will explore how common tinnitus is, its causes, and the various types one can encounter.

The Number Of People Living With Tinnitus

Graph of number of people living with tinnitus
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No matter your age, gender, or background, tinnitus can affect anyone. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) estimates that up to 50 million Americans show symptoms of this condition. Of those people, a staggering 2 million have extreme cases that severely reduce their quality of life.

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These individuals may also experience hearing loss, and may experience tinnitus as a loud noise that constantly pierces their sense of hearing, rather than a low-level or intermittent hum.

Prevalence Of Ringing In The Ears

Research shows that tinnitus is more frequent in seniors, with nearly a third of those 65 and above affected. There also appears to be a gender discrepancy, as men are more likely than women to develop the condition, though the severity of the condition does not have an association with either gender. With this data, we can understand how widespread tinnitus is across different demographics and develop screening procedures that are more likely to capture the prevalence of hearing loss and tinnitus affecting one or both ears in order to increase tinnitus treatment implementation and availability.

Common Causes Of Tinnitus

Uninvited ringing in the ears, otherwise known as tinnitus, can derive from various sources like drugs or medical issues; however, it is often a result of being exposed to loud noises, whether those come from work or pleasure. Concerts and construction sites are rife with decibels that can damage components inside our ear drums responsible for hearing, leading to an unrelenting buzz.

Tinnitus may manifest alongside age-related hearing loss, ear infections, excessive wax buildup, or head/neck injuries. It can also indicate the presence of more serious issues like Meniere’s disease and acoustic neuroma. If you experience any symptoms related to tinnitus, don’t hesitate to visit your doctor immediately to rule out more severe issues with blood flow, cardiovascular function, or even head or neck trauma.

Common Sounds That Can Cause Tinnitus And Hearing Loss

Firework show

When preventative measures are not taken, hearing can be damaged by loud sounds like concerts, firework shows, gunshots, and machinery. Unfortunately, the destruction of the inner ear’s hair cells can lead to tinnitus and permanent hearing loss, making it essential to guard against damage caused by loud sounds and prevent the onset of tinnitus or more severe hearing loss.

The Connection Between Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, And The Inner Ear

Damage to the delicate hair cells in the inner ear can lead to many adverse effects, such as hearing loss and tinnitus. These tiny yet crucial structures convert sound waves into electrical impulses that are interpreted by the brain. When they become impaired, they cannot properly communicate signals, which results in a lack of hearing and an intrusive ringing noise. Delicate cells can be damaged by loud noise, injury, and infection, all of which are easy to miss or confuse with other communication disorders. Hair cells can also be damaged by certain medications (for example, certain chemotherapy regimens are known to be toxic to the hair cells in the ears). Lastly, hair cells are susceptible to the effects of time. We know that people lose hair cell function as they age.

A simple ear infection, for instance, is not usually considered a cause for concern, but additional damage caused by injury, poor precautionary measures, or constant exposure to loud sounds can severely damage your hearing and lead to communication disorders.

How Many People With Tinnitus Have Hearing Loss?

According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), almost 90% of individuals suffering from tinnitus also experience hearing loss. This is thought to be due to the damage inflicted on the inner ear’s hair cells, a common cause for both conditions. While not all people with tinnitus or even damage to the ear canal will experience tinnitus and hearing loss in conjunction with one another, tinnitus diagnosed with hearing loss is not uncommon. Sometimes individuals with normal audiograms and tinnitus are confused because they don’t understand how they can have tinnitus when their hearing is normal. There are other measures of hearing sensitivity and function that may reveal deficits in your hearing abilities, even when the standard hearing test looks normal.

How Can Tinnitus Be Caused By Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is considered benign, but can be frustrating for people to experience as they age. Age can worsen tinnitus that has already been diagnosed, but it can also spur the onset of tinnitus. This particular source of tinnitus is thought to be due almost entirely to the deterioration of the hair cells within the ear, as these begin to degrade with age. Other communication disorders can also lead to tinnitus, but presbycusis is considered the most likely source in those aged 65 and older.

Middle Ear Tinnitus Vs. Inner Ear Tinnitus

Tinnitus can be caused by problems in the middle ear or the inner ear.  Middle ear-related tinnitus results from issues in the ears, such as fluid buildup or a ruptured eardrum, while inner ear-induced tinnitus is caused by damage to the tiny hair cells within the cochlea. Both can be the result of noise induced hearing loss, and both can be caused by other communication disorders. The underlying cause involving each of these types will inform different treatment options.

Common Types Of Middle Ear Tinnitus

Two common types of middle ear tinnitus are pulsatile and eustachian tube dysfunction-related tinnitus. Pulsatile tinnitus is a consequence of an anomalous current in surrounding blood vessels, and can indicate the presence of high blood pressure or another potentially harmful aspect of an individual’s medical history. The latter originates from a blocked or infected eustachian tube that joins the middle ear to the back of the throat. Both require some form of intervention, whether that means receiving medication for high blood pressure or another vascular condition, or receiving treatment for eustachian tube dysfunction.

Common Types Of Inner Ear Or Auditory Nerve Tinnitus

Tinnitus is typically separated into two distinct categories: subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus can only be heard by the individual, while objective tinnitus can be heard by others around the individual experiencing it. However, subjective tinnitus is significantly more common. Other varieties of this condition include noise-induced and somatic types, which are caused by issues occurring in either your head or neck area. As is the case with middle ear versus inner ear tinnitus, the type of tinnitus being evaluated will determine the tinnitus treatment likely to be used.

Is Tinnitus Caused By Abnormal Blood Flow to My Inner Ear Or Auditory Nerve?

A confounding type of auditory tinnitus known as pulsatile tinnitus can be triggered by abnormal blood circulation in the vessels near your ears. Issues with veins around your neck and head may also lead to this kind of tinnitus. In this particular type of tinnitus, rapid intervention is essential; because this type of tinnitus can signal the presence of damaged or abnormally functioning blood vessels, it is important for those experiencing symptoms to seek evaluation from a physician. Tinnitus treated using cochlear implants, hearing aids, or other standard interventions will not effectively remedy pulsatile tinnitus, as the root cause will not have been addressed.

How Common Is Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Pulsatile tinnitus is one of the less common forms of tinnitus, and with good reason: because it is the type of tinnitus least likely to be benign, it is only present in around 4% of the population presenting with tinnitus. Despite its low prevalence among those affected by tinnitus, it is one of the more treatable versions of the condition, provided that the underlying cause is addressed and treated.

What If The Sounds In My Ear Do Not Go Away?

Woman at a doctor's appointment

If you are suffering from tinnitus, don’t despair: assistance is available! To get the best course of treatment for your particular situation, it’s recommended that you consult a healthcare expert or audiologist. While there isn’t currently a cure, treatments do exist which can dramatically abate your symptoms. Your provider may recommend a hearing test, followed by providing hearing aids or retraining therapy as possible solutions to regulate and control intermittent episodes of tinnitus. Take back control with the right treatment plan tailored to meet your needs.

How To Identify Factors That May Worsen Tinnitus

To keep episodes of tinnitus to a minimum, it is important to stay away from loud noises, stressors, caffeine, and certain medications. Taking the time to write down when your symptoms appear and what action you were performing at that moment in time could help recognize potential triggers for these flare-ups. From an inner ear disorder, to an abundance of ear wax, to a failure to wear ear protection at a concert, there are numerous factors that could be influencing your tinnitus flares, and people with tinnitus often experience the greatest relief when they take a more proactive approach to learning about themselves and how different factors affect their unique case of tinnitus or hearing loss.

What Is Today’s Best Treatment For Ringing In The Ears?

If you’re struggling to find an appropriate treatment plan for alleviating your tinnitus, never fear; there are numerous options available to treat different types of tinnitus. The most effective treatments available today include hearing aids, sound therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and tinnitus retraining therapy. Each of these therapies addresses this condition’s unique causes and symptoms to help reduce pain and discomfort associated with chronic ringing in the ears. Some treatments will help mask tinnitus, while others will help reduce external sounds, and still others will place a focus on how mental health can affect hearing conditions, and seek to improve responses to hearing loss and tinnitus.

Are Treatments Different For Pulsatile Tinnitus?

To effectively address pulsatile tinnitus, a physician must first accurately identify what is causing the medical condition. If the culprit is established to be a vascular problem like obstructed vessels around the ears, medical or surgical procedures are needed to improve blood circulation and ultimately eliminate this symptom.

If pulsatile tinnitus is due to an ear infection or inflammation, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed to resolve it. Because pulsatile tinnitus can be caused by serious issues and more benign issues alike, it is essential to determine what the cause of pulsatile tinnitus is, and to determine how similar or different the treatment will be when compared to more common types of tinnitus.

What Is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)?

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) has been designed to help those struggling with tinnitus learn how to cope with and manage the condition. Combining counseling sessions with tailored audio treatments can retrain people’s responses until they no longer substantially impede life quality. This revolutionary technique could offer enduring relief from intrusive tinnitus symptoms if done diligently over time.

Introduction To Hearing Aids For Tinnitus

Man wearing hearing aids

For those troubled by tinnitus, hearing aids can be the most effective solution to help minimize symptoms and improve listening. By amplifying sounds from one’s surroundings, these devices create a distraction that reduces any anxiousness associated with this condition–all due to increased sound levels. With amplified audio, individuals can experience a better quality of life while living with tinnitus. 

How Can Hearing Aids Help Tinnitus?

Benefitting from wearing a hearing aid can bring incredible advantages to those with tinnitus. Not only does it reduce the perception of the inner ringing sound by amplifying external noises, but it translates into improved auditory acuity and may result in decreased feelings of loneliness, which can lead to an enhanced quality of life. Hearing aids are frequently used in conjunction with other interventions to provide the best possible form of intervention, and address tinnitus symptoms from multiple angles.

Finding A Hearing Aid For Tinnitus Treatment

If you need hearing aid options for tinnitus treatment, an audiologist or hearing specialist can help. They will thoroughly evaluate and provide tailored recommendations that fit your needs. Audiologists work with patients to determine which types of intervention will most successfully address all of an individual’s needs.

When deciding on a hearing aid to remediate your tinnitus, consider how it fits your lifestyle and communication needs. Ensure that the device’s characteristics are compatible with the intensity level of your symptoms. Additionally, be aware of any customizable features, such as maskers or white noise options, that may help diminish the ringing sensation associated with tinnitus. Don’t forget about budget considerations, as insurance does not always cover treatment for tinnitus. Weigh all these factors carefully before making an informed decision, so you can find what suits you best and most effectively addresses all aspects of your condition.

Do I Need One Hearing Aid Or Two For Tinnitus Treatment?

To achieve the best possible results from tinnitus treatments, you may require a single or double hearing aid according to your degree and category of hearing loss. Generally speaking, those with two-sided damaged hearing can benefit immensely from wearing both aids, as this will better their sound understanding while balancing environmental sounds and tinnitus pitch. Research also shows that if you only wear one hearing aid when you have hearing loss in both ears, the ear without the hearing aid will get worse at a more rapid rate. Determining which is right for you means speaking with an audiologist, relaying your symptoms and goals for treatment, and developing a plan that can be consistently adhered to.


If you’re suffering from tinnitus, seek the assistance of a qualified audiologist or hearing specialist for effective management and improved quality of life. Your symptoms can be managed successfully with their expert guidance and tailored treatment plans. While tinnitus may not be prolific, it is common enough, with millions of people experiencing symptoms. While there is not a dedicated tinnitus cure, most cases possess an underlying condition that can be addressed, and normal hearing may be established at least some of the time with a multi-faceted treatment plan. 

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