What Is Tinnitus?

Are your ears ringing?

“A spider’s web is hidden in one ear, and in the other, a cricket sings throughout the night.”

This is how Michelangelo described his experience with hearing loss and tinnitus, and no wonder he resorted to metaphors in his description. Tinnitus can be hard to explain to people.

woman at an office computer

Tinnitus is known to many as a “ringing in the ears.” While most people experience this as a phantom tone with a consistent high pitch that seems to come and go, others may hear a buzzing, screeching, hissing or roaring sound. When we say it is a “phantom” sound, that means it cannot be heard by anyone else; it exists somewhere in a person’s auditory pathways. It may be the same in both ears or, more often, will be slightly different from one ear to the other.

Do you recognize yourself in this video?

Take a look at this video and see for yourself if you recognize yourself in the main character.



What are the causes of tinnitus?

Tinnitus itself is not a disease or disorder but a symptom, and there seem to be a number of problems in the body that can lead to the development of tinnitus. According to the literature, some common causes may include hearing loss, ear infection or ear canal blockage, head or neck injuries, or medications.

Tinnitus affects people differently. Some people are not bothered by it while for others, it can significantly affect their quality of life. Some people with tinnitus may experience fatigue, stress, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating or remembering, depression, anxiety or irritability.

Identify your tinnitus sounds

This video plays the 8 tinnitus sounds that people frequently hear.  It is possible that you may hear more than one of these sounds in each ear.  Which ones do you hear?

  • Sound 1 (0:13): 4 Khz triange wave
  • Sound 2 (0:21): 5 Khz impulse wave
  • Sound 3 (0:28): 5 Khz square wave
  • Sound 4 (0:36): 8 Khz triangle wave
  • Sound 5 (0:43): 10 Khz sine wave
  • Sound 6 (0:4)): 13 Khz square wave
  • Sound 6 (0:57): Brown noise
  • Sound 8 (1:03): 200 Hz impulse wave
  • Sound 9 (1:11): Violet wave

Ask your doctor is your tinnitus has any identifiable cause

If you have developed tinnitus, the first thing to do is to visit your doctor. They will be able to determine if there is a simple cause. They may refer you to an ENT doctor for tests.

Most cases of tinnitus, however, do not have an immediately identifiable cause, and it is most common that a cause is never found. The best course of action for most people is to find ways to make tinnitus have less of an impact on their lives, and to allow them to live comfortably without it “driving them crazy”.

90% of people with tinnitus also have some type of hearing loss, and it is worth getting a hearing test if you have tinnitus.

How can Phonak hearing aids provide relief for your tinnitus?

Sometimes tinnitus will subside on its own. Most of the time, tinnitus will not simply go away, but there are a number of ways to mitigate its effects and reduce its impact on your life.

man talks to team

Hearing Aid Amplification

If your tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss, hearing aids are an excellent tool in dealing with tinnitus, not to mention improving your hearing ability. Many people have reported that by amplifying the hearing frequencies which are impaired, this has the effect of relieving the symptoms of tinnitus. Therefore, for some people with hearing loss, the simple gesture of wearing hearing aids may significantly relieve their tinnitus symptoms.

woman wearing phonak slim

Hearing Aid Streaming

With Phonak hearing aids, the Bluetooth functionality allows tinnitus sufferers to stream soft music or sounds of nature directly to the hearing aids, for relief when tinnitus is particularly bothersome. This can be done discreetly, without bothering people in the immediate vicinity of the hearing aid wearer.

father and son picking apples

Hearing Aid Masking

Phonak hearing aids also offer a masking solution that can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch. Masking can take the form of varying amplifications of white noise, pink noise or other noise sources, depending on their success in relieving tinnitus symptoms. Using these barely perceptible continuous sounds, our brain unconsciously focuses away from the tinnitus. In an internal study from 2014, Phonak’s tinnitus masking technology was found overwhelmingly to be of assistance to those who wore their hearing aids. After three months with the technology, 80% of subjects reported feeling better about their tinnitus than they did when the study began.

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