“Ringing in the ears” or Tinnitus, is the perception of ringing, hissing, buzzing, humming or whistling sounds in the ears. The sound may come from one ear or both, from a distance or from inside the head. It can be continuous or intermittent and may vary in loudness.
This is a common condition affecting around 50 million adults in the US. It is especially common in adults over the age of 55 and is often related to hearing loss.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Loud noise: The most common cause of tinnitus is prolonged exposure to loud sounds. Loud sound from heavy equipment, chain, saws and firearms may lead to noise-related hearing loss. Portable music devices such as iPods, MP3 players can also lead to tinnitus and hearing loss. Ringing in the ear caused by short-term exposure like attending a music concert usually goes away.
Earwax blockage: If there is too much accumulation of earwax, it can cause hearing loss or irritation to the ear drum leading to tinnitus.
Age-related hearing loss: Hearing capacity may worsen with age, usually around the age of 60. Hearing loss can lead to tinnitus.
Ear bone changes: Otosclerosis is a condition in which there is stiffening of the bones in the middle ear leading to tinnitus and loss of hearing. This condition usually runs in families.
Meniere’s disease: It is an inner ear disorder which occurs due to abnormal inner ear fluid pressure. Tinnitus is usually an early indicator of this condition.
Head or neck injuries: Head or neck injuries can affect the inner ear, nerves or brain function related to hearing. Such injuries usually lead to tinnitus in one ear.
TMJ disorders: Temporomandibular joint is the joint between your lower jaw and skull on each side of your head. Problems related to this joint may cause tinnitus.
Acoustic neuroma: It is a noncancerous tumor that develops on the cranial nerve that runs from brain to inner ear. It generally causes tinnitus in one ear.
Eustachian tube dysfunction: Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to your upper throat. When this tube remains expanded all the time, it can make your ear feel full and cause tinnitus. Sudden loss of weight, radiation therapy, or pregnancy may cause this type of condition.
Muscle spasms: Muscles present in the inner ear may go into a spasm, resulting in tinnitus, hearing loss and feeling of fullness. This can happen without any cause or due to neurologic diseases like multiple sclerosis.
High blood pressure: High blood pressure and contributing factors like stress, caffeine and alcohol can cause tinnitus.
Atherosclerosis: With age and due to build-up of cholesterol, blood vessels close to the middle and inner ear may lose their elasticity. This causes blood flow to become more forceful, making it easier for your ears to detect the pulse. This type of tinnitus is usually heard in both the ears.
Medications: Many drugs can cause or worsen tinnitus. The higher the dose of these drugs, the worse the tinnitus becomes. Medications known to cause or worsen tinnitus are- aspirin, cancer medications, antidepressants, Antibiotics and water pills (diuretics)
If you are having issues with your hearing, contact Eagle Hearing, Idaho's Preferred Audiology and Hearing Aid Clinic.