The term tinnitus is used in medicine to describe the sensation / presence of any type of sound from the ear that is not normal. This can be described in many different ways, depending on the circumstances. Patients can complain of ringing, crickets, ocean sound, buzzing, and/or pulsations.
Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears when there is no actual external sound present.
The work up of tinnitus typically involves examining the ear to rule out any other obvious associated factors, such as wax or infection or foreign body. Once this is done, typically a hearing test is performed. The most common cause by far of tinnitus is sensorineural hearing loss.
The most common causes of hearing loss (and therefore tinnitus) in adults are loud noise exposure and age related hearing loss. Other causes of tinnitus include side effects of certain medications, head or ear trauma, ear infections, and other disorders of jaw and neck muscles. Evaluation includes an audiogram to evaluate the patient’s hearing and treat the underlying hearing disorder if appropriate. Because this problem is typically permanent, treatment options then can be quite limited.
The main symptoms of an abnormal middle ear pressure include a clogged or fullness sensation in the ear and muffled or decreased hearing (Conductive Hearing Loss).
Occasionally, fluid can build up in the middle ear space due to these abnormal pressure dynamics. This is common in children but can also occur in adults, especially when flying or diving while congested (a problem known as otic barotrauma).
See Ear Fluid / Serous Effusion for more information.