Tinnitus happens when a person hears an intermittent or continuous noise that doesn’t come from any source outside of the body. It is a non-auditory, internal sound that can be experienced in one or both ears. The usual sound comes in the form of ringing that is often more noticeable during periods of quietness such as sleeping. It can also be hissing, whistling, buzzing, or crickets.
Tinnitus is not a disease but rather a symptom to an underlying medical problem.
What causes tinnitus?
A common cause of tinnitus is damage to the inner ear hair cell. These tiny, delicate hairs play a huge role in producing the sounds that you hear. When these are bent, broken, or damaged, they can leak random electrical signals to your brain, which cause the random sounds produced as tinnitus.
Other causes of tinnitus are the following:
- Age-related hearing loss: For most of us, our ability to hear tends to gradually decline as we age. This medical phenomenon is coined as presbycusis. Age-related hearing loss can cause tinnitus.
- Exposure to loud noise: People who work in an environment that is exposed to excessive noises often suffer from tinnitus. This can also be caused by exposure to extremely loud sounds such as attending concerts or listening to prolonged periods of music through earphones or speakers.
- Earwax blockage: Cerumen is our body’s natural way of protecting our hearing. Earwax is produced by the ears to trap dirt and slow the growth of bacteria. While ultimately beneficial, accumulation of this may cause more harm than good. Earwax blockage can cause hearing loss or irritation of the eardrum, which can then lead to tinnitus.
- Ear bone change: Otosclerosis is the abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear. This bone prevents the structures within the organ to function as it should, causing hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Head or neck injuries: These types of trauma can affect the inner ear, hearing nerves, or hearing-linked brain function, which can cause tinnitus.
- Medical conditions: Other less common causes are medical conditions such as Meniere's disease, TMJ disorders, acoustic neuroma, and eustachian tube dysfunction.
- Blood vessel disorders: In rare but possible cases, a disorder in the blood vessel can also cause tinnitus to happen. This may involve atherosclerosis, head and neck tumours, high blood pressure, turbulent blood flow, and malformation of capillaries.
- Medications: Some medications can also cause tinnitus. In these cases, the noise in the ears will also end once you stop taking these drugs. Medications that are known to cause tinnitus are antibiotics, cancer medications, diuretics, quinine medications, some antidepressants, and aspirin.
What are the risk factors of tinnitus?
Tinnitus can happen to anyone, but these factors may increase the risk of its development:
- Exposure to loud noise
- Sex—men are more likely to experience tinnitus
- Vices such as smoking
- Cardiovascular conditions
When to see a hearing care professional?
When the sound starts to impede your productivity, we highly encourage that you set an appointment with your trusted hearing care professional. As tinnitus is a known symptom to several medical conditions such as hearing loss, it is important to find out as early as possible if there is an underlying problem that may be associated with it. This way, we’ll know the appropriate tinnitus treatment to help ease your discomfort.
If you’re looking for tinnitus relief, Listening Lab provides a range of TCI devices for users who need hearing amplification and tinnitus relief. You may contact any of our branches for more information.