Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is the perception of an internal sound when no external sound is present.
Tinnitus is a very common disorder. It may be intermittent, constant or fluctuate, mild or severe, and may vary from a low roaring sensation to a high pitched type of sound. It may or may not be associated with a hearing loss. It is also classified further into subjective tinnitus (a noise perceived by the patient alone) or objective (a noise perceived by the patient as well as by another listener). Subjective tinnitus is common; however, objective tinnitus is relatively uncommon. The location of tinnitus may be in the ear(s) and/or in the head.
Tinnitus is a symptom much like pain. With tinnitus, the reported distress is usually subjective and difficult to record and appreciate by others.
The quality of the tinnitus refers to the description by the patient of the tinnitus: It may be a ringing, buzzing, cricket, ocean, or other type of sound. The quality may be multiple sounds or a singular sound.
Tinnitus may be produced in one or more locations of the hearing system. Although not fully understood, it is thought that tinnitus comes from both damage in the ears AND the brain. It may occur with a hearing loss, vertigo or other symptoms.
Tinnitus is difficult to measure. Examinations for pitch-matching and loudness-matching, minimum masking levels, residual inhibition, and questionnaires are often used to help describe the tinnitus.