ZocdocAnswersIs it normal to have tinnitus at a young age?

Question

Is it normal to have tinnitus at a young age?

I?m only 19 yrs old. I?m a girl and in my freshman year in college. The last couple of days, when everything is quiet, like when I?m studying, I hear ringing in my ears constantly. My friend said this is tinnitus. Aren?t I too young to have this? Could the ringing be caused by something else?

Answer

Tinnitus, strictly speaking, is the perception of a sound within the ear without a corresponding sound (i.e. hearing something that no one else in the room can hear). Most commonly this is a ringing or "whooshing" sound like the ocean. Tinnitus is a complex problem, and one that we don't fully understand, otherwise there would be a definitive "cure" out there, and there isn't. Therefore, most of tinnitus treatment is geared toward management of the symptoms and trying to mask the sound. This doesn't imply by any means that this isn't a real problem than can potentially have significant effects on your quality of life. On the contrary, tinnitus can be very devastating to many people, and for that reason there are tinnitus management clinics for this very reason at many large institutions like the Cleveland Clinic. There are some important things to evaluate in the patient with tinnitus prior to referring them to a tinnitus management clinic however. The vast majority of tinnitus patients have a mild high frequency hearing loss (from old age... obviously not pertaining to you, or sometimes from hereditary hearing loss or noise trauma). The theory is that since the brain is no longer receiving all of the frequencies (due to the hearing loss), it manufactures its own sound (the tinnitus). There are of course some other important things that need to be ruled out in a patient with tinnitus that are very rare (like an acoustic neuroma), and for this reason I would recommend that you make an appointment to be evaluated by an ENT who will likely perform an audiogram (hearing test). I hope that this is helpful.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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