Transient Ear Noise And Tinnitus: What You Need To Know

Transient Ear Noise And Tinnitus: What You Need To Know

Are you experiencing some kind of unusual ear noise and are unsure what to do or where to go next? If so, then you’ve come to the right place. You are not alone, and in fact, virtually everyone encounters this kind of hearing phenomenon at some point in their lives. 

What you are most likely experiencing is something audiologists refer to as transient ear noise. This has often been described as a brief ringing or whistling sound that may be followed by a brief decrease in hearing (<30 seconds). Usually, a transient ear noise episode happens in one ear only at a given time and may be accompanied by the feeling of a “clogged” ear.

While this may feel worrisome if it is something you experience, in most cases, there aren’t any lasting effects. On the other hand true tinnitus is typically longer in duration, although it may fluctuate in how it sounds. Read on to better understand the differences between temporary, transient ear noise vs. tinnitus.

Dr. Ben discusses everything that you need to know about transient ear noise.

Tinnitus Or Transient Ear Noise?

Though you may have some tinnitus symptoms, you could actually be experiencing transient ear noise, sometimes referred to as TEN by audiologists. We think it is definitely important to get ahead of any developing tinnitus and to go see an audiologist or ear, nose, and throat doctor to get checked out if you have concerns. However, most cases with transient ear noise are not necessarily something to worry about. 

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"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
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Tinnitus is an umbrella term, referring to the perception of sound without an external source, often described as a ringing, buzzing or humming in the ears. Transient ear noise, technically under the umbrella of tinnitus as it is a perception of hearing sound without an external source, is a bit different as it occurs usually randomly for very brief moments. To differentiate tinnitus vs transient ear noise we have to consider the sensation’s duration and frequency. Unlike tinnitus, transient ear noise generally disappears within seconds and will not require diagnostic testing, sound therapy, or other treatments. Tinnitus can have a variety of underlying pathologies, as well as accompanying hearing loss. If you are experiencing sounds in the ears, it is best to see an audiologist or physician to further evaluate the tinnitus and possible etiology.  Meeting with professionals will help you not only understand but manage your tinnitus. 

Transient Ear Noise Explained

Transient ear noise is often referred to as TEN and is a type of tinnitus that is characterized by brief, spontaneous episodes of ringing, whistling, or roaring in the ears. Transient ear noise can last for just a moment or up to 30 seconds and is often only reported in one ear at a time. 

In most cases, transient ear noise is then typically accompanied by a reduction in hearing and an aural fullness or muffled sensation in the affected ear. A 2013 study (Almond, Patel & Rejali) investigating this phenomenon, regarding it as Transient Auditory Dysfunction (TAD) reported this may occur with a  prevalence of 20.5%. Based on their sample, representative of a general healthy population without other otological symptoms, the authors conclude this seems to be a common phenomenon.

Tinnitus Explained

Conversely, tinnitus is defined as ringing, buzzing, or whistling that more than 50 million people in the United States alone experience! The vast majority of tinnitus cases originate in the auditory system. For some individuals, tinnitus can be  annoying and bothersome. While tinnitus often occurs without any other medical concerns, it is possible for there to be an underlying etiology or pathology causing the tinnitus. Though we certainly encourage people experiencing any tinnitus sensations to undergo an audiological exam and possibly an evaluation by a physician if there are any medical red flags (i.e. new onset tinnitus, tinnitus in only one ear, dizziness, pain in the ears, etc.). Better understanding your tinnitus and whether there is any accompanying hearing loss and/or underlying medical concerns is a crucial first step in the management of tinnitus. 

While tinnitus does not have a single “cure,” there are many different management options that can help. In cases where there is accompanying hearing loss, hearing aids can be helpful. Additionally, therapy to help manage tinnitus through sound therapy and other lifestyle modifications are also options for those with more severe tinnitus.

Why Is TEN Important To Understand?

It is important to understand that first and foremost, TEN is nothing to worry about. It is a perfectly normal phenomenon that affects a large number of people with seemingly no harmful side effect or premonition of harm to come. 

Unlike tinnitus, transient ear noise appears and then disappears within seconds and typically does not require diagnostic testing, sound therapy or any other treatment. However, if it does cause you any anxiety, there is absolutely no harm in seeking out a medical professional to ensure that your auditory system is healthy. It is never too early for a baseline hearing test!

But again, rest assured there is nothing to worry about here, unless maybe you are the talk of the town…because like the old superstition or adage says “My ear is ringing, someone must be talking about me!”

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