Tinnitus is the name for the common ailment of ringing which is perceived by the sufferer without the actual sound having been emitted on the outside of his or her body. This sound can be heard as coming from elsewhere or from within the head and is often described as ringing, beeping, wind sound, frog quacking, buzzing, hissing, ticking, but sometimes as tunes and songs. It can be nonstop, or irregular; if the sound continues without a pause, the person suffering from this form of tinnitus is in great agony.
Tinnitus is no sickness per se; it is actually a result of some other cause, or symptom of another ailment. Sometimes it is a side effect of a drug, whereby Quinidine comes to mind, or if serotonin has dropped to alarmingly low levels. It very often happens, that tinnitus sufferers have contracted the ringing sensation after being exposed to extremely loud noise, or are working in a noisy environment. Very often musicians and sound engineers, as well as related workers, like roadies, instrument technicians, mixing engineers, music producers and composers, have some form of tinnitus, which was contracted on the job. Other workers include construction workers, building engineers, people handling heavy and noisy machinery like Jackhammers, or on the other hand aircraft maintenance people.
The perception of the associated sound disturbance is very subjective, the sound can go from very quiet, perceivable only in silent environments, to excruciating, loud noise, suffocating all other sound and rendering the sufferer an insomniac; these simple clinical stages are called "slight" and "catastrophic" respectively, with various stages in between.
To protect the hearing from tinnitus it is often advised to wear ear plugs, whenever noisy environments are encountered, some working individuals would be recommended to constantly wear some kind of ear protection, but they rarely do. Custom made ear plugs are available, where the overall noise level is lowered on an even frequency spectrum throughout at about 20 dB A. Certain people, like aircraft maintenance personnel, or jackhammer handlers, are advised to wear stronger ear protection devices at all times. With aircraft engines, loudness of over 100 dB is common, when engines are roaring, whereby hearing impairment is almost to be expected. Without proper hearing protection, such people would lose significant hearing capabilities within hours and most surely suffer from tinnitus.
Musicians' ear plugs are specially made ear protection devices which are meant to reduce the overall noise, without tampering the sound experience by changing the perceived frequencies, thereby reducing the chance of contracting tinnitus. The overall frequency spectrum is remaining stable, the loudness reduced, allowing the musicians to hear the music mix, but removing the hearing hazard. Lemmy, the bass guitar player with the band Motörhead, is legally deaf, because he never used any hearing protection.