Tinnitus : symptoms, causes and treatment


Tinnitus is a "parasite" noise that a person hears without actually hearing it. It can be a whistling, buzzing or clicking noise, for example.

It can be heard in one or both ears, but it can also appear to be present inside the head, either in front of or behind the ear.

Tinnitus symptoms

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Tinnitus can be occasional, intermittent or continuous. It is the result of a dysfunction in the auditory nervous system. It is a symptom that can have many causes.

Temporary tinnitus can occur after exposure to very loud music, for example. It usually resolves on its own without intervention.

This fact sheet is dedicated to chronic tinnitus, i.e. tinnitus that persists and can become extremely annoying for those affected.

However, in the vast majority of cases, tinnitus does not have a significant impact on quality of life.

Content (Click to view)
  1. Tinnitus: understand everything in 2 min.
  2. Prevalence
  3. Types
    1. There are two main categories of tinnitus.
    2. Objective tinnitus.
    3. Subjective tinnitus.
  4. Causes
  5. Among the many other possible causes are the following:
  6. Certain disorders or diseases:
  7. Evolution and possible complications
    1. Other Options:
  8. You may be interested:

Tinnitus: understand everything in 2 min.


In general, it is estimated that between 10 and 18% of the population suffers from tinnitus. The proportion is 30% among adults. Between 1% and 2% of the population is severely affected.

In Quebec, it is estimated that approximately 600,000 people are affected by this problem, 60,000 of them seriously.

The widespread use of personal music players and MP3 players among young people raises fears of increased prevalence in the medium term.


There are two main categories of tinnitus.

Objective tinnitus.

Some of them can be heard by the doctor or specialist consulted, since they are caused by disorders that, for example, make the blood flow more audible.

It can also manifest itself through repeated "clicks", sometimes related to abnormal movements of the ear muscles, which can be heard by those around you.

They are rare, but usually the cause can be identified and then the patient can be intervened and treated.

Subjective tinnitus.

In your case, the sound is audible only to the affected person. Tinnitus is the most common form of tinnitus, accounting for 95% of cases.

Since their physiological causes and symptoms are currently very little known, they are much more difficult to treat than target tinnitus.

On the other hand, it is possible to improve the patient's tolerance to these internal noises.

The intensity of tinnitus varies from person to person. Some people have little tinnitus and do not seek medical attention. Others hear noises all the time, which can affect their quality of life.

Note: If you hear voices or music, it is another disorder called "auditory hallucination.


Hearing tinnitus is not a disease in itself. Rather, it is a symptom very often related to hearing loss.

One of the hypotheses raised by experts is that this is a "phantom signal" generated by the brain in response to damage to the cells of the inner ear (see Risk Factors section for more details).

Another hypothesis is that the central auditory system is dysfunctional. Genetic factors may be involved in some cases.

The most common factors associated with the onset of tinnitus are :

  • In the elderly, hearing loss due to aging
  • In adults, excessive exposure to noise

Among the many other possible causes are the following:

  • Long-term use of certain drugs that can damage cells in the inner ear (see Risk Factors section).
  • An injury to the head (such as a head injury) or neck (whiplash, etc.)
  • The spasm of a small inner ear muscle (stapedial muscle).
  • Blockage of the ear canal by an earwax plug.

Certain disorders or diseases:

  • Meniere's disease and sometimes Paget's disease;
  • Otosclerosis (or otosclerosis), a disease that reduces the mobility of a small bone in the middle ear (the stapes) and can lead to progressive deafness (see diagram);
  • Ear or sinus infections (e.g., repeated ear infections)
  • a tumor in the head, neck, or auditory nerve
  • A misalignment of the temporomandibular joint (which allows movement of the jaw)
  • Diseases of the blood vessels, which can cause so-called pulsating tinnitus (about 3% of cases).

These diseases, such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, or abnormalities of the capillaries, carotid or jugular, can make blood flow more audible.

Non-pulsating target tinnitus can be caused by an abnormality of the Eustachian tube, neurological disorders, or abnormal contractions of the throat or middle ear muscles.

Evolution and possible complications

Some tinnitus manifests itself very gradually: before becoming permanent, it is perceived intermittently and only in quiet places. Others appear abruptly, after a particular event, as a sound trauma.

Tinnitus is not dangerous, but when tinnitus is intense and continuous, it can become very disturbing. In addition to causing insomnia, irritability and difficulty concentrating, tinnitus is sometimes associated with depression.

Other Options:

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You may be interested:

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