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What is Tinnitus?

By: Joel Edwards, M.S., CCC-A

According to the National Institute on De​​​afness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), tinnitus can present with many generally described sensations, including buzzing, roaring and high and low pitched sounds. Tinnitus affects about 22 million people, which is approximately 10 percent of adults in the U.S.

Cause of Tinnitus

Anything that affects the auditory system and sound transmission through the ear or nerves can cause tinnitus, such as:

  • Hearing loss
  • Side effects from drugs (prescribed or over-the-counter)
  • Wax blocking the ear canal completely or touching the tympanic membrane (eardrum)
  • Ear infections
  • Noise, such as gun blasts, rock concerts, etc., without ear protection
  • Diseases of the ear, such as Meniere’s disease
  • Brain tumors

What Testing can be Done if I Experience Tinnitus?

Obtain medical evaluations from an audiologist and ENT with experience in the proper diagnosis and management of tinnitus. The audiology evaluation should assess your hearing, ability to understand speech and middle ear pressure. A test of the function of the hair cells in your inner ear hearing organ (cochlea) may also be performed. We will determine how much your tinnitus bothers you by providing you with several questionnaires that will determine the level of severity.

A medical evaluation by a physician is needed to determine if the cause of tinnitus is medical or otherwise. Since tinnitus is usually a noise emanating from the brain and not from the ear, a good medical evaluation is essential.

Why All the Testing?

Tinnitus is thought to originate at the tiny hair cells of the cochlea (hearing organ). The cochlea is the snail-shaped portion of dense bone (the hardest type of bone in the body) that houses the delicate hair cells responsible for hearing. Sometimes these delicate structures become damaged. Testing this area is important to help locate the structure of the ear that is producing the tinnitus.

Your tinnitus may be measured for pitch and loudness. Once tinnitus has been diagnosed, a set of solutions or treatments will be provided.

Many patients are told “Nothing can be done about your tinnitus; you have to live with it.” Do not worry; there are options and solutions for most people who suffer with tinnitus.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with an audiologist please call 402–498–6338.


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD: 2014, January 27). Tinnitus. Retrieved from