This hearing disorder is characterized by ringing or whistling in the ear, or a succession of notes, almost like music. A common cause is over-exposure to sudden or continuous loud noise resulting in damage to the part of the inner ear concerned with hearing -- often the cochlea. The brain interprets the malfunction as a sound. Related or aggravating conditions may be due to poor blood circulation, lack of vitamin B (essential for the nervous system), cervical osteoarthritis, deafness caused by quinine or aspirin, Meniere's disease or a tumour in the ear.
There are actually two kinds of tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus involves sounds only you can hear and can be caused by loud noises, an ear infection, medication or head injury. Objective tinnitus can be heard by a professional using a special listening device, and is usually caused by irregularities in the blood flow or cardiovascular system. Pure tinnitus (not related to other causes) seems to be incurable, but the patient can be treated with sound masking or amplifying background noise, relaxants and psychological support.
It is estimates that one in six adults suffers from tinnitus at some point in their lives.