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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the difference between objective and subjective tinnitus?

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    Dr Smariti Kapila

    Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon

    Dr Kapila is an ENT Surgeon, who manages many general ENT issues such as: Nasal obstruction and septal deviation Snoring Tonsillitis Ear infections - otitis … View Profile

    Tinnitus is sound, in one or both ears, which affects up to 25% of people aged over 70 years.

    It can be:

    • Objective - a ‘real’ sound generated by the body 
    for example - pulsing noise due to high blood pressure, arterial or venous growths or abnormal anatomy, small muscle spasms in the ear/mouth
    • Subjective - a sound in the absence of ‘real’ source from the body
    for example - inner ear hearing loss resulting in electrical signal abnormality and the perception of sound

    Tinnitus is often a simple result of hearing loss as one ages, however can represent a new one-sided hearing loss as the first sign of a growth or tumour, or a potentially serious vascular (blood vessel) problem.  This is why it is important to have any tinnitus properly assessed and investigated.

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    Dr Dadafarin is a leading Doctor of Audiology with over 30 years of experience in different areas of Audiology, as a Research Audiologist, an Audiology … View Profile

    Of all cases of tinnitus reported, about 80% are subjective in nature. In these cases, tinnitus is perceived in the ears or the head without the presence of any external sources. In fact, subjective tinnitus is only perceived by the person hearing it! The good news is that these types of tinnitus can be treated/managed.

    On the other hand, objective tinnitus is a real sound that not only can be heard by the person affected, but can also be heard or identified by the examiner. Objective tinnitus tends to be either vascular (pulsatile) or muscular (myoclonus) in nature and requires medical assessment.

    All patients with tinnitus should have a comprehensive audiological assessment. Following this assessment, the audiologist would be able to advise the patient on treatment options or make recomendations for further medical investigations, if required. 

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