Tinnitus — often referred to as constant ringing or buzzing in one’s ears — can actually manifest itself in many ways. The sounds people hear, or more accurately, perceive to hear, have also been identified as buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing and clicking. Some rare cases have reported people hearing music.

How many people have tinnitus?

The malady is more common than most people think. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 15 percent of the general public, or about 50 million Americans, experience tinnitus in some form and degree. Almost half of those cases are chronic, with another 2 million cases characterized as extreme and debilitating.

What causes tinnitus?

According to the American Tinnitus Association, people can suffer from two types of tinnitus: objective and subjective. Subjective tinnitus occurs when an individual perceives to hear noises; the noises are actually inaudible to other people, including an audiologist. Subjective tinnitus is thought to be caused by auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, but scientists and researchers believe other catalysts can cause subjective tinnitus.

Objective tinnitus, on the other hand, occurs when an individual hears noises and sounds that are audible to others. These sounds come from internal functions of the body’s blood flow and musculo-skeletal movement. Objective tinnitus is quite rare, comprising less than 1 percent of all tinnitus cases.

How do you treat tinnitus?

Regardless of the type of tinnitus one may suffer from, because the malady isn’t well understood, there are no cures available. However, treatment options exist that can ease the burden and frustration of the constant noise.

One way to help establish an effective treatment regimen is to rule out any possible comorbid, or concurring, conditions that could be causing the tinnitus. Tinnitus is associated with a range of such conditions, including vestibular (relating to the inner ear), audiological issues and behavioral health problems.

Typically, hearing loss is the primary cause for tinnitus symptoms. The American Tinnitus Association states that 56 percent of all tinnitus patients report hearing loss, too. Additionally, some researchers believe that subjective tinnitus cannot exist without hearing loss.

What is Meniere’s Disease?

Meniere’s Disease, a disorder of the inner ear that usually affects hearing and balance, is also thought to create tinnitus symptoms. While Meniere’s Disease is fairly rare, occurring in about .02 percent of the American population, tinnitus symptoms are often reported along with the usual symptoms of Meniere’s Disease.

A third catalyst for tinnitus is hyperacusis, an abnormal, extreme sensitivity, even ordinary sounds at a normal volume.

Doctors also believe some behavioral and emotional issues can cause tinnitus, including misophonia, phonophobia, depression and anxiety. Whether the tinnitus is coming from fear of loud noises or as a result of chronic depression, it is important to understand how behaviors and emotions can result in tinnitus.