What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus, a sound in the head with no external source, is not a disease. Rather, it is a symptom that can be triggered by a variety of different health conditions. So, what causes tinnitus? Common sources include hearing loss, ear wax buildup, ototoxic medications, and ear bone changes. Regardless of the cause, the condition of Tinnitus interrupts the transmission of sound from the ear to the brain and can cause some serious pain.
Sometimes those who suffer from tinnitus are unaware that they have lost the ability to hear certain frequencies. For this reason, it is important that you schedule an appointment with an audiologist, who can conduct audiometric tests and precisely measure the extent of your hearing loss.
Causes Of Tinnitus
Ear Wax Buildup
If ear wax (known as cerumen) accumulates in your ear canal, it can diminish your ability to hear. Your auditory system may try to overcompensate for the loss, creating noises that do not exist. Dr. Stakiw and our team can safely remove the buildup, and in most cases, this will immediately alleviate your tinnitus. However, sometimes ear wax buildup causes permanent damage, resulting in chronic tinnitus.
Ear wax is not the only obstruction in the middle ear that can increase pressure in the inner ear, producing tinnitus. Other examples include dirt, foreign objects, and loose hair from the ear canal.
A disorder of the inner ear, Ménière’s disease typically affects hearing and balance and may cause debilitating vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus. People who suffer from Ménière’s disease often report a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear (it typically affects only one ear). The condition most often impacts people in their 40s and 50s, but it can afflict people of all ages, including children. Although treatments can relieve the symptoms of Ménière’s disease and minimize its long-term influence, it is a chronic condition with no true cure.
When a medication is ototoxic, it has a toxic effect on the ear or its nerve supply. In damaging the ear, these drugs can cause side effects like tinnitus, hearing loss, or a balance disorder. Depending on the medication and dosage, the effects of ototoxic medications can be temporary or permanent. More than 200 prescription and over-the-counter medicines are known to be ototoxic, including the following:
- Certain antibiotics
- Certain cancer medications
- Certain anticonvulsants
- Diuretics and water pills
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen
- Quinine-based medications
- Tricyclic antidepressants
If you experience tinnitus after you begin taking a new medication, contact the prescribing physician. In addition, if you already have tinnitus, let your physician know before he or she prescribes a new medication, as effective alternatives to ototoxic drugs may be available.
Various Disorders & Diseases
Ménière’s disease is not the only disease that can trigger tinnitus. In fact, numerous disorders and diseases can cause or worsen the condition, including all of the following:
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
- Lyme Disease
- Thyroid Disorders
Other Health Conditions
Investigating what causes tinnitus in a particular case can be tricky, because so many health conditions can provoke this side effect. If you hear ringing in your ears, your audiologist may explore whether one of the following health conditions is to blame:
- Ear infections
- Acoustic neuromas
- Issues involving the heart
- Issues involving the blood vessels
- Issues involving the ear bones (such as otosclerosis, the stiffening of the bones in the middle ear)
- Jaw misalignment
- Head or neck trauma (this can impact the inner ear and hearing nerves)
- Stress (physical or emotional stress can act as a catalyst for tinnitus)
Tinnitus varies dramatically from person to person, so it is important to visit Rocky Mountain Audiology to learn more about your specific circumstances. Some of the causes of Tinnitus result in permanent issues and require treatment, while others induce temporary tinnitus that disappears on its own. To find out what causes tinnitus in your specific situation, contact Rocky Mountain Audiology today.
Tinnitus: Next Steps
If you suffer from tinnitus, contact Rocky Mountain Audiology today to explore your treatment options. Our audiologists specialize in tinnitus treatment, and we have provided life-changing relief to countless patients through FDA-approved tinnitus treatments. Schedule An Appointment today, or call our Edwards location at (970) 926-6660 or our Glenwood Springs location at (970) 945-7575.