Hearing sound when no external sound is present is called Tinnitus. This noise is often described as ringing, buzzing, clicking, hissing or roaring. It isn’t a condition itself, rather, it is a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury, ear infection, or disease of the heart or blood vessels.
Subjective Tinnitus, which is frequently described as ringing, buzzing, and roaring or crickets chirping, can only be heard by the patient.
Objective Tinnitus is usually caused by a disturbance of blood flow in or near the ear or in the case of clicks, spasm of the muscles in the middle ear or throat. This should be checked out by a qualified specialist to rule out life threatening conditions such as an aneurism and arteovenous malformations (AVM).
Subjective Tinnitus is much more common and is said to affect over 6 million people in the United States. Its cause is unknown. One school of thought is that the sound is produced in the inner ear itself and another school claims that the noise is produced in the brain. In most patients, the noise is more of a nuisance. In others it is very disturbing affecting activities of daily living and sleep. It is usually low in intensity and can easily be drowned out by any pleasant background noise such as music. In some cases, noise generators that produce the sound such as ocean waves or waterfalls are helpful especially when trying to fall asleep.
There a many forms of treatment that claim to be effective but no one treatment has ever been found to be effective for everyone. Most medications do not work and in fact medications such as aspirin are frequently the cause of the Tinnitus itself. More information about the causes and treatment of tinnitus can be obtained from the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) or by contacting your hearing specialist.