Tinnitus is the term used for noises or sounds which are heard in one or both ears or in the head which do not come from an external source. They are often described as a high-pitched ringing but can also be described as a buzzing, hissing, pulsing, whistling, roaring, or various other sounds. Tinnitus can be very mild in loudness and only noticeable in a quiet room or it can become extremely loud and annoying to the point where the sufferer hears nothing else. It can be present all of the time or occur intermittently.
The loudness of the tinnitus often varies in intensity depending on several factors including stress, diet, and noise exposure. Tinnitus, like chronic pain, is subjective. Two people may report similar characteristics yet be affected in a significantly different manner. The severity of the tinnitus is largely a function of the individual reaction to, or perception of, the tinnitus. Many tinnitus sufferers have difficulty sleeping and/or concentrating, and many are depressed.
As many as 360,000 Canadians suffer from annoying tinnitus, 150,000 Canadians experience a degree of tinnitus that significantly affects their quality of life*. While tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, it may accompany decreased hearing and other symptoms such as a feeling of pressure in the ear and/or unsteadiness, dizziness or vertigo. However, for many people with tinnitus it occurs alone with no other symptoms.