There are two clinically differentiated types of tinnitus: subjective tinnitus and objective tinnitus. Out of all of the tinnitus cases reported, 99% of those cases fall within the subjective tinnitus category, making subjective tinnitus the more common of the two types.
What is subjective tinnitus?
Subjective tinnitus is defined as perceiving sound when there is no acoustic source present. In the absence of any auditory stimuli, a person experiencing subjective tinnitus may hear a diverse range of sounds – from a ringing to a whistling to a buzzing – either in one ear or both ears. Due to the fact that there is no acoustic source, subjective tinnitus can only be heard by the person perceiving the sound.
Within the subjective tinnitus type, there are two additional categories – primary and secondary tinnitus. Primary tinnitus occurs more frequently and is characterized as tinnitus that is a result of hearing loss or accompanied by hearing loss. Secondary tinnitus is provoked by a specific cause that is unrelated to hearing loss or auditory issues, such as certain medications or underlying medical conditions.
Understanding objective tinnitus
Objective tinnitus is defined as the perception of sounds that are caused by internal structures. Because the sound is actually being generated by an acoustic source, a doctor or hearing care specialist is able to hear what the patient is hearing by inserting a small microphone into the ear canal or placing a stethoscope or other listening device on the patient’s neck or surrounding area.
Problems in a person’s cardiovascular and circulatory systems are generally the cause of objective tinnitus. Irregularities in the passage of blood flowing through arteries and veins in the head or neck may result in discernible thumping or whooshing noises. Muscle spasms and structural problems within the inner ear and brain may also cause objective tinnitus.
Pulsatile tinnitus: a certain type of objective tinnitus
A specific form of objective tinnitus is pulsatile tinnitus – the perception of pulsing noises that sound similar to a heartbeat. This rhythmic throbbing can often be heard in time with a person’s actual pulse and is generally symptomatic of cardiovascular issues.
If you or someone you love is experiencing tinnitus-like symptoms, the first step is to speak with a hearing care specialist and have an assessment*. Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional.