It’s pronounced TIN-ni-tus because it is persistent tones heard in the ear when no environmental sounds are present. It’s not pronounced tin-NYE-tus because, if it were, your tin would be inflamed.
Tin smelters (Or cats. -ed.) can have tin-NYE-tus. The rest of us have TIN-ni-tus. There are many different causes of the sounds we refer to as tinnitus:
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Ear and sinus infections
- Diseases of the heart or blood vessels
- Ménière’s disease
- Brain tumors
- Hormonal changes in women
- Thyroid abnormalities
Although we hear tinnitus in our ears, its source is really in the networks of brain cells (what scientists call neural circuits) that make sense of the sounds our ears hear. A way to think about tinnitus is that it often begins in the ear, but it continues in the brain.
Scientists still haven’t agreed upon what happens in the brain to create the illusion of sound when there is none. Some think that tinnitus is similar to chronic pain syndrome, in which the pain persists even after a wound or broken bone has healed.
Tinnitus could be the result of the brain’s neural circuits trying to adapt to the loss of sensory hair cells by turning up the sensitivity to sound. This would explain why some people with tinnitus are oversensitive to loud noise.
Tinnitus also could be the result of neural circuits thrown out of balance when damage in the inner ear changes signaling activity in the auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes sound. Or it could be the result of abnormal interactions between neural circuits. The neural circuits involved in hearing aren’t solely dedicated to processing sound. They also communicate with other parts of the brain, such as the limbic region, which regulates mood and emotion.nih.gov/tinnitus
The most likely reason for Meniere’s patients to suffer from tinnitus is damage to the mechanisms of the inner ear that transmit sound. Endolymph (the fluid in the inner ear itself) becomes pressurized (hydrops) and the pressure damages the nerve endings there. Consequently you get a ever-increasing sound footprint in your brain that you have to listen around in order to hear anything.
There is no known treatment for tinnitus. There are methods to train yourself to ignore it, and there are ways to masque it, but the ringing is something you learn to live with one way or another. People will try to sell you on treatments. My advice is to save your money.
The trick is to train yourself not to listen to the sounds the tinnitus makes. After as many years as I’ve suffered with this I think I can say pretty authoritatively that not listening to it, reducing it’s importance, even meditating on it to become one with it, is how to cope with it. I definitely don’t listen to it.
My tinnitus is basically a ringing that seems to constantly vary in strength and pitch and be in varying tones simultaneously. It fluctuates from day to day, hour to hour. It is the sound of buzzing or ringing. I can hear my heartbeat in it. It seems to reflect environmental noise, so loud places are intolerable for long periods. Ear plugs are a godsend when hyperacusis sets in.
Hyperacusis is basically an audio migraine. All sounds, even quiet sounds, can be painful. Wearing earplugs is about the only way to deal with it successfully and ear plugs can aggravate other types of tinnitus. Hyperacusis can be so bad that the sound of your own breathing can set it off.
Hyperacusis should wind down like the more traditional migraine does. They don’t know what causes any of the things they call migraines, and that is the biggest problem with them. Some part of the brain is misinterpreting the signals that it’s receiving and you get audio problems, vision problems, skin sensitivity problems or vertigo.
I wonder what the more modern epilepsy treatments would do for it? In any case, I won’t be getting normal hearing aids if I ever end up needing them because I have a tendency to experience hyperacusis since developing Meniere’s and amplifying the sound in my ear is simply going to send me to my office to hide more frequently, not get me out among people more often.
Sudden Brief Unilateral Tapering Tinnitus (Otology & Neurotology)
SBUTTs are benign and common among most people. I’m still looking at the literature on the subject, but I see little to be concerned about in it even if it occurs frequently.
I get these at weird times. Possibly more frequently than I did before, but also possibly not. I haven’t noticed that they are linked to spells of vertigo or hearing loss myself, although the sudden spikes that disappear do make me worry about an attack. The worry is probably more of a concern than the SBUTT should be. Worry and street go hand in hand and stress is a major trigger.
American Tinnitus Association
If you run the slider up and down on this Tone Generator you can find which specific tones that you can or cannot hear. I get a distinct doppler effect as the tone pass through ranges that I can’t hear in one ear or the other. Bit of a freaky experience.
If you want to understand what the effects of hearing loss or tinnitus sounds like to others, hear-it.org has a list of sound files that approximates them. I can’t judge the accuracy since I can’t hear them normally anyway.
A hodgepodge of comments spliced together from numerous places over the span of a decade. Steven Novella inspired this being posted today with his pithy comment about the pronunciation of tinnitus in yesterday’s episode of the SGU. Since I mispronounce this word frequently myself, I decided to riff on the subject. Featured image.