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What is the Difference Between Tinnitus and Hearing Loss?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 17, 2024
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Tinnitus and hearing loss are not the same condition. Tinnitus is a condition that produces an audible sound in the ears, which typically may recur intermittently. The individual may experience what seems like a ringing noise or other sound such as whistling in one or both ears. It may be caused by various medical conditions or by the use of certain medications. Hearing loss is a decreased functioning of hearing that typically occurs at a gradual pace and can be due to age, illness, injury, or environmental aspects.

One aspect that tinnitus and hearing loss share is that both conditions involve the ears and affect hearing in some capacity. Tinnitus and hearing loss can both be evaluated by a physician known as a otologist. This is a specialist who treats conditions of the ear. Tinnitis may be treated with medications or therapy.

Tinnitus and hearing loss are connected by the fact that hearing loss may be accountable for tinnitus. Tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, however. When a person suffers from hearing loss, it is generally caused by damage to the inner or outer ear. Occasionally, the middle ear will be affected.

Various conditions may be accountable for tinnitus. A person's career or work environment may be a contributing factor in developing this condition. Those who are constantly exposed to high levels of noise may be at a greater risk for developing tinnitus and hearing loss.

Hearing loss can also be brought on by noise exposure over a long period of time. Those who are exposed to loud music or amplifiers, or those who work in very noisy factories may suffer from a gradual loss of hearing. It is also common to suffer from a degree of hearing loss as one ages.

Sometimes an ear infection that goes untreated or does not respond to medication may cause hearing loss. Diseases, especially infections that cause high fevers, may cause a degree of hearing loss as well. When fluid builds up in the ear canal and does not proper drainage does not occur, hearing loss may result.

Tinnitus and hearing loss also can be differentiated by the symptoms that each condition is known to cause. While tinnitis is not a disease in itself, it may be caused by other medical conditions or environmental factors. If a person develops tinnitis, however, he will not suffer hearing loss as a direct result of the condition. Tinnitis is a noise heard through the ear or ears, whereas hearing loss is a loss of the capacity to hear.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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