What Are the Different Types of Tinnitus?

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There are many different types of tinnitus, and each has a unique set of symptoms. Some tinnitus can only be treated using behavioral therapy, others require surgery, and some might even respond to tinnitus supplements.

You shouldn’t have to suffer needlessly through tinnitus and if you notice you have symptoms you should consult a doctor right away. The following article discusses the various types of tinnitus, their causes, and the course of action you should take should you find yourself suffering from any of them. Continue reading to learn more about the different types of tinnitus.

What Am I Hearing?

People can experience tinnitus in a multitude of ways. Some might be able to rid themselves of the ringing with a simple head shake. Others can barely cope with their condition. Currently, there is no cure for tinnitus, but relief can come in the form of a variety of treatments.

Common, Constant, Treatable, and Manageable

Tinnitus can present itself in any number of ways. It makes sense, then, that there are four different types of tinnitus: subjective, objective, neurological, and somatic. Since it is a fairly common symptom, tinnitus can be simply defined as a phantom ringing, whooshing, buzzing, or any other noise in your ear that only you can hear.

The Four Different Types of Tinnitus

Subjective Tinnitus: Subjective tinnitus is the most common form of tinnitus, and the symptoms can only be heard by the individual. It is typically caused by exposure to excessive noise and the tinnitus noise can appear and disappear suddenly. Typical subjective tinnitus cases last 3-12 months at a time and in more severe cases, it won’t stop.

Neurological Tinnitus: Neurological tinnitus occurs in conjunction with other disorders such as Meniere’s disease, which primarily affects the brain’s auditory function.

Somatic Tinnitus: Related to the sensory system, and it can be caused and worsened by conditions related to the sensory system.

Objective Tinnitus: Objective tinnitus is a rare form of tinnitus caused by involuntary muscle contractions or vascular deformities. This type of tinnitus is rarely cured entirely, and it is the only type of tinnitus that can be heard by an outside observer. Though it is rarely cured, it is the only type of tinnitus that has a known cure.

Subtypes of Tinnitus

Musical tinnitus: This type of hearing condition refers to musical hallucinations or auditory imagery. Tones or layers of tones can come together to recreate melodies or compositions and it tends to occur in people who have suffered from hearing loss and tinnitus for some time. People with normal hearing can also suffer from musical tinnitus and the cause to musical hallucinations is unknown.

Pulsatile tinnitus: pulsatile tinnitus describes a rhythmic tinnitus that accompanies the patient’s heartbeat. Pulsatile tinnitus typically indicates a change of blood flow to the vessels near the ear. It can also coincide with an increased awareness in the blood flow to the ear.

Low-frequency tinnitus: low frequency tinnitus is perhaps the most confusing type of tinnitus because sufferers aren’t sure whether the sound is internal or external. The tones typically correspond to the two lowest octaves pianos can produce and they are often described as a humming, murmuring, rumbling, or droning.

What Causes Tinnitus?

The cause of tinnitus varies depending on the patient. If there is no damage to the auditory system, your provider will likely examine you for the following common causes:

  • TMJ
  • Neck strains
  • Certain types of medications
  • Ear wax build-up
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • A typically benign tumor that can strain the arteries in the neck and head

Tinnitus can typically be managed with various methods to make it less bothersome, but no single approach works for everyone and there is no FDA-approved drug treatment, supplement, or herbal remedy that has been proven more effective than placebos.

There are also behavioral strategies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) that can expose the patient to their tinnitus and help them achieve a newfound level of comfort with their symptoms.

The most common of these types of behavioral therapy include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
  • Masking
  • Biofeedback

Luckily for those with tinnitus, there are numerous options available for them to try. So, if one method doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean they are without hope.

More than 50% of those with tinnitus also have a degree of hearing loss. This might suggest to some that wearing a hearing aid can cure tinnitus. Unfortunately, hearing aids respond to the outside of the ear and don’t address the underlying causes. Careful diagnosis by a professional will help devise a comprehensive solution for those suffering with tinnitus.

Is There Research for a Tinnitus Cure?

Since there is such a diverse set of causes, there likely won’t be a one-size-fits-all cure for tinnitus. However, research for both tinnitus treatment and cures continue and it focuses primarily on the causes of tinnitus, which are very similar to hearing loss, and they may lead to new ways to prevent it. Since many of the cases of tinnitus have a close link to hearing loss, much of the research on tinnitus incorporates hearing loss.

How to Recognize the First Signs of Tinnitus

The following symptoms are the most common early indicators of tinnitus, and you should see a specialist if you start noticing that you experience any of the following indicators:

  • Constant ringing in the ears
  • Loud thumping in both ears
  • You hear music that isn’t playing
  • Obvious hearing loss

Your specialist will be able to devise a treatment plan for you based on your symptoms.

Conclusion: What Are the Different Types of Tinnitus?

The different types of tinnitus present themselves with different symptoms and you should consult a doctor if you notice any ringing, buzzing, whooshing, or thumping in your ears. Your doctor will be able to devise a comprehensive solution tailored to your symptoms. Though there is no cure for tinnitus, people often report improving their symptoms and gaining comfort with their symptoms with the use of behavioral therapy.

Zach Lundgren has a graduate degree in Rhetoric, Writing, and Professional Communication. He is an experienced SEO writer with an interest in scientific communication and technical writing. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, backpacking, and creative writing.

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