Tinnitus can occur a few times a month or many times in one day. It can last for a few moments or several hours, or it can be constant without relief – even while sleeping. People with tinnitus can experience anything from intermittent episodes that are not very bothersome to a constant noise that can negatively influence one’s daily life.
Is tinnitus real?
Tinnitus is very real, as it is a “sound” that is heard by the person experiencing it (subjective tinnitus), regardless of whether someone else can hear it (objective tinnitus). In fact, in MRI scans, magnetic imaging shows cerebral activity associated with auditory perception.
Tinnitus should always be thought of as a symptom and not a disease – just as arm pain could be a symptom of an underlying fracture. And since tinnitus can be a sign of certain medical complications, it should never be dismissed or underestimated.
Tinnitus is generally accepted to have three defining characteristics. First, tinnitus is a perception of sound and therefore it must be audible to the patient. Second, it is involuntary and cannot be produced intentionally. Third, it must originate inside the head.
What can you do?
Although most cases of tinnitus are harmless and simply a by-product of a damaged hearing system, you should see a hearing care professional under any of the following circumstances:
- you have persistent tinnitus
- your tinnitus is only heard in one ear
- your tinnitus is accompanied by dizziness and/or balance problems
- tinnitus is affecting your day to day functioning
- your tinnitus is pulsatile (seems to beat in sync with your heartbeat)