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Tinnitus, (pronounced tih-NIGHT-us or TIN-ih-tus) is a ringing, swishing, or other type of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head. Most of us will experience tinnitus or sounds in the ears at some time or another. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 10% of adults in the U.S. have experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year. Tinnitus is identified more frequently in white individuals, and the prevalence of tinnitus in the U.S. is almost twice as frequent in the South as in the Northeast.
Tinnitus can be extremely disturbing to people who have it. In many cases it is not a serious problem, but rather a nuisance that may go away. However, some people with tinnitus may require medical or surgical treatment. Thirteen million Americans have tinnitus, and about one-quarter of those experience it so severely it interferes with their daily activities.
Tinnitus can arise in any of the four sections of the hearing system: the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, and the brain. Some tinnitus or "head noise" is normal. A number of techniques and treatments may be of help, depending on the cause.
Picture of the structures of the outer, middle, and inner ear
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/30/2015
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