The term tinnitus aurium (from the Latin “the ringing of the ears”) or short tinnitus describes the perception of sound within the human ear in the absence of corresponding external sound. The person affected, thus, hears noises that have no perceivable outer source. A “subjective tinnitus” is a symptom of an underlying illness of the inner ear. It is sometimes also referred to as a syndrome. Unlike this the “objective tinnitus” is caused by an endogenic source (= a source within the own body) which is discernible or at least measurable. Objective tinnitus though is very rare in comparison to subjective tinnitus.

Subjective Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a pain signal of the overstrained auditory cells. Due to their extreme specialization on the production of acoustic information, the only way auditory cells are able to convey their biological overstrain and distress is via acoustically perceivable signals (tinnitus). In orthodox medicine tinnitus is also discussed in context with the following illnesses:

  • Inflammations of the ear
  • Otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear)
  • Otitis externa (inflammation of the outer ear)
  • Diseases of the middle ear that are accompanied by a disturbance of sound transmission (e.g. otosclerosis)
  • Viral or bacterial infections (e.g. borreliosis = lyme disease)
  • Acoustic trauma
  • acute: an explosion near the ear, gunshots
  • chronic: long-term exposure to loud noises (such as loud music in discotheques or from machinery)
  • Acute idiopathic hearing loss
  • Diving accidents
  • Caisson disease (divers’ paralysis/decompression illness)
  • Barotrauma (injuries of the ear drum caused by sudden changes in atmospheric pressure)
  • Morbus Menière (attacks of rotatory vertigo)
  • Autoimmune diseases of the inner ear
  • Ototoxic substances
  • Acoustic neurinoma (a tumor of the auditory nerve/8th cranial nerve)

Objective Tinnitus

In many cases of tinnitus, however, the underlying cause cannot be diagnosed using current, state of the art medical diagnostic tools. Many patients experience an intensification of their tinnitus during stressful times or situations during which they don’t feel well mentally. Therefore, one cannot exclude a psychosomatic component in the development and/or perpetuation of this symptom. Due to the lack of other tangible explanations it is, however, also thinkable that a non-existing causal link between stress and the development of a tinnitus is constructed by the person affected. Apart from physiological causes such as loud noises or inflammations within the ear, some models try to explain tinnitus through infavorable signal transduction and processing in the brain. Such theories are difficult to prove and leave much room for speculation.

  • Vascular malformations
  • Palatal nystagmus
  • Tubal malfunctions

Tinnitus – First aid

Tinnitus is not a mere ”phenomenon“ completely uncoupled from the body’s biological reality of overstrain on the cellular level of the inner ear. On the contrary, tinnitus is a true biological emergency signal coming from a highly sensible sensory organ (your ear!) that has to be taken very seriously! You should follow your intuition, take this symptom extremely seriously and try to find out what you can do to influence your tinnitus in a positive way.


For this purpose the daily use of earplugs to consciously protect the affected organs of hearing against everyday noise and give them much needed rest is highly recommended. For a person affected by tinnitus the use of earplugs entails a small but easily surmountable obstacle. As soon as patients suffering from tinnitus protect their ears by using earplugs, they can hear the tormenting ringing sound even louder than before because the surrounding noises which previously drowned out the tinnitus are now being shut out. At first this certainly comes as a bit of a shock and maybe even an imposition.


But if one overcomes this initial difficulty and continues using the noise protection for a certain period of time, every tinnitus patient will experience that the silence and rest (i.e. not having to work) is good for the ear, that the tinnitus becomes somewhat milder, less aggressive and less tormenting. In much the same way the tinnitus can become more aggressive and agonizing after exposure to noise (e.g. after a long car drive, a concert, a long phone call).
Sources: Wikipedia, Dr Wilden