Audiologists have established there are four types of tinnitus. Some are temporary or treatable, while others are permanent or can only be managed, not cured.
Subjective tinnitus is the most common type, accounting for 95% of cases. It can only be heard by the person affected and is usually the result of exposure to loud noise. It can appear abruptly and last around three months in some cases or 12 months or longer in others. This form is often accompanied by hearing loss due to the same noise damaging the delicate hair cells responsible for conducting sound to your brain.
Objective tinnitus is the only form that can actually be heard by someone else if they put their ear very close to yours, or it can be heard by a doctor using a stethoscope. It is the rarest form, and thought to be caused by involuntary muscle contractions or vascular deformity. Patients with this type often describe it as a “pulsing” sound occurring in time with their heartbeat. It usually has a specific cause that can be identified and can be treated successfully with surgery or other medical treatment.
Neurological tinnitus is caused by a disease that affects your nervous system, such as Meniere’s disease. Patients with this form also tend to experience dizziness, vertigo, and balance issues. While doctors can treat the underlying cause to bring some relief, there is usually no cure, and so the tinnitus will likely be permanent.
Somatic tinnitus results when the sensory signals coming from various parts of your body are disrupted, causing a spasm that produces tinnitus. People with this type often have it in only one ear. Depending on whether a root cause can be diagnosed, your doctor may be able to come up with an effective treatment plan.
The one thing tinnitus patients have in common is that they’d rather not be distracted from enjoying life by the noise in their ears. Fortunately, we offer a number of hearing aid options with advanced tinnitus therapy features, including synthetic signals like white noise and natural sounds like ocean waves against a sandy beach. If you suffer from tinnitus and are seeking relief from its symptoms, talk to your hearing care professional and find out if hearing aids with tinnitus therapy signals could help.