6 Myths About Tinnitus

This blog post has been reviewed and approved by a hearing healthcare professional.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when there is no external source. The most common sounds heard include ringing, buzzing or hissing. Over the years, there have been many myths about tinnitus, and we have broken down six of the most common that you should know.
MYTH: Tinnitus Is A Disease

Fact: Tinnitus itself is not a disease itself. Instead, it is a symptom of a different underlying disease — or variety of diseases — or other health condition that you have.1 For many years, hearing loss has been understood to be the most common cause of tinnitus. Other causes of tinnitus may include:


  • Loud noise exposure

  • Age-related changes in the inner ear

  • Impacted earwax

  • Meniere’s disease

  • Whiplash

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Lyme disease

  • Meningitis

  • Head injury

  • Ototoxic medications, such as salicylates, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aminoglycoside antibiotics, loop diuretics, and chemotherapy agents


However, in many cases no underlying cause can be found.

MYTH: Tinnitus Is The Same For Everyone

Fact: Everyone experiences tinnitus differently. For example, there is a large variety of sounds that people hear, and it is different for every person. Some people may hear a ringing, clicking, hissing, humming, chirping, whooshing, roaring, and/or a heartbeat noise. Tinnitus may be a constant sound for some people, but for others it is only occasional in specific situations.


Tinnitus can be classified as either subjective or objective tinnitus, and then there are subsets classifications like pulsatile and muscular tinnitus. Here are the important distinctions between them:


  • Objective tinnitus, a perceived sensation of sound that occurs in the absence of external acoustic stimulation, but it can also be heard by the examiner (eg, by placing a stethoscope over the client’s external auditory canal)

  • Subjective tinnitus, a perception of sound in the absence of an external acoustic stimulus and is heard only by the client

  • Pulsatile tinnitus, a perceived sensation of hearing a rhythmic noise that aligns with the heartbeat. It may indicate a change of blood flow to the vasculature near the inner ear

  • Muscular tinnitus, a perception of sound that is often described as a “clicking” noise and is usually associated with myoclonus affecting muscles near – or in – the ear

MYTH: There Is Nothing I Can Do About Tinnitus

Fact: There are therapies and treatments that can help people with tinnitus. If the underlying cause of your tinnitus is temporary, it can go away on its own. If the underlying cause is treatable, it will go away once that condition is cured. 


Even if your tinnitus is permanent, there are ways to reduce the severity of your symptoms. The research into tinnitus treatments has helped create new and better methods. A hearing healthcare professional can offer solutions and treatments to help make your condition more manageable. 


Some solutions that may be offered are hearing aids, which help strengthen real sounds for you to hear so the tinnitus noise you hear is less noticeable. Most hearing aids now connect with dedicated tinnitus relief apps, such as Widex Zen. You can download the Widex Zen app from the Apple Store or Google Play. These apps have specially designed features to further help you notice your symptoms less often and less severely.


You can also go through special forms of therapy that may help. The most common types are Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, Sound Therapy, and Bimodal Therapy. These and others all help train your brain in different ways to ignore or not notice the sounds as much.


In addition, physicians can diagnose and address the health issues that might be causing the tinnitus in the first place.

MYTH: Tinnitus Is Permanent

Fact: Tinnitus can be temporarily caused by a recent exposure to loud noise. Normally, tinnitus in response to noise trauma will persist for 16 to 48 hours.2 However, there are more long-lasting or recurring episodes of tinnitus.

 

If tinnitus continues and is affecting your quality of life, it is recommended that you see your doctor or a hearing healthcare professional.

MYTH: Hearing Aids Can't Help Tinnitus

Fact: Hearing aids are one of the most common and effective ways to beat tinnitus. Many hearing aids are equipped with a tinnitus masking feature that can be enabled. In addition, hearing aids can be especially helpful for tinnitus because they:


  • Provide amplification in quiet environments therefore reducing the contrast between tinnitus and silence

MYTH: Tinnitus Is A new Thing. People Didn't Have It Years Ago
Fact: Tinnitus has been around for centuries and it has not been contributed to changes in the modern age. A study has said that even people in ancient Egypt made reference to tinnitus in their scripts.3  It is also shown from his writings that the composer Ludwig Van Beethoven had tinnitus.4
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1 Ramage-Morin, Pamela, Rex Banks, Dany Pineault, and Maha Atrach. “Tinnitus in Canada.” Statistics Canada. Published March 20, 2019. Accessed May 5, 2022. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2019003/article/00001-eng.htm


2 Kaltenbach, J. A., J. Zhang, M. A. Zacharek, and J. Snow. "Tinnitus: theory and management." (2004): 141-161.


3 Stephens, S. D. G. "The treatment of tinnitus—a historical perspective." The Journal of Laryngology & Otology 98, no. 10 (1984): 963-972.


4 Perciaccante, Antonio, Alessia Coralli, Neil G Bauman. “Beethoven: His Hearing Loss and His Hearing Aids.” National Library of Medicine. Accessed May 5, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32925866/