When you hear a sound in your head with no external source, you could be experiencing Tinnitus.
While it is not considered as a disease, it can be a symptom of certain health issues like hearing loss, ototoxic, ear bone changes and ear wax buildup.
Regardless of the causes of Tinnitus, it can cause your ear to have a reduced ability to transmit sound from the ear to your brain. There are also parts of your hearing which are involved in disruption. It can be in the inner, outer, or middle ear.
Unfortunately, some of the causes for Tinnitus impact the neurological activity of your auditory cortex or the portion of your brain which enables you to hear. When the sound is interrupted, the neural circuits are unable to receive the signals.
Although the lack of stimulation often causes hearing loss, it is not usually the case. The symptom involves the chattering of the neural circuits. The chattering becomes hyperactive in the long run. This deviation causes the brain to compensate for the changes by perceiving the new activity as sound. The changes in your brain activity cause buzzing, hissing, ringing, roaring, or whistling.
Tinnitus may vary from individual to individual. It is recommended that you visit an audiologist to find out the specific circumstances you may be experiencing. There are also causes that lead to permanent Tinnitus. This condition requires treatment.
Temporary Tinnitus, on the other hand, tends to disappear on its own. In a nutshell, Tinnitus interrupts the transmission of sound, but there are underlying conditions that cause Tinnitus to occur. Surprisingly, there are 200 health disorders having Tinnitus as a symptom according to the American Tinnitus Association.
Types of Tinnitus
- Objective Tinnitus: This type of tinnitus is rare and can be identified when the audiologist uses a stethoscope or listens closely to your ear. Objective Tinnitus is caused by vascular deformities or contractions of your involuntary muscle. The sound that the doctor hears is pulsating. The cause of objective tinnitus is determinable and it also disappears through medication or surgery.
- Neurological Tinnitus: This type is due to health conditions like Meniere’s disease. It affects your neurological system and can be accompanied by balance issues, vertigo, and dizziness. It does not have any cure yet, but there are medications you can take to alleviate the symptoms.
- Subjective Tinnitus: This is the most common type and caused by overexposure to noise. The symptoms appear suddenly and can last up to three months for acute and 12 months for subacute. Subjective tinnitus may damage your hair cell causing you to lose your hearing as well. The severity of the symptoms may also vary from person to person. It also depends on your ears’ reaction to noise.
- Somatic Tinnitus: When your body’s sensory system is no longer functioning properly, it can also cause a spasm, which results in developing tinnitus. If you have somatic tinnitus, there are treatment options to consider that can reduce the symptoms. Your doctor will discuss those options with you. Somatic tinnitus can be experienced in one ear only.
Common Causes Of Tinnitus
1. Hearing Loss
Individuals with hearing loss may experience Tinnitus along with other conditions. Subjective Tinnitus, for instance, occurs when the auditory system was previously damaged. The damage can cause the sound frequencies to change. The brain, as a result of the changes, processes the sound differently. There are many reasons you can lose your hearing and the most common causes of tinnitus are related to aging and exposure to loud noise.
When the hearing loss is due to exposure to loud noise, the hair cells in your ear gets destroyed. Since they cannot be replaced or renewed, the damage can lead to permanent hearing loss. When there is continued exposure to hearing loss, the symptoms may worsen. If you are in a loud environment, wearing ear protection is one way to reduce the chances of damaging your hearing. The common professions which are prone to noise exposure are construction workers, first responders, military personnel and many others.
When hearing loss is due to aging, a condition known as presbycusis, the symptoms may progress. Age-related hearing loss affects individuals over the age of 50. Aging causes people to lose 0.5% of their hearing. The changes start to occur at the age of 40.
There are also cases when people suffering from Tinnitus are unaware that they have lost their hearing. You can still prevent the condition from worsening by scheduling an appointment with your audiologist. You will undergo audiometric tests to find out more about the degree of hearing loss. There are also causes of tinnitus without hearing loss.
2. Ear Wax Buildup
You can also experience hearing loss when the cerumen or ear wax accumulates in the ear canal. The ear wax buildup causes your auditory system to overcompensate for the hearing loss by fabricating noises that do not actually exist. The good news is that the ear wax buildup can be removed by your audiologist. The process is safe and can reduce the symptoms of tinnitus.
It is also possible for the ear wax buildup to create permanent damage known as chronic tinnitus. It is not only your middle ear that is affected by tinnitus but your inner ear as well. Aside from earwax buildup, the condition may occur due to dirt, loose hair, and foreign objects from your ear canal.
3. Meniere’s Disease
Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder. Aside from affecting your hearing, it also affects your balance, causing you to experience vertigo, Tinnitus, and hearing loss. If you are suffering from Meniere’s disease, there is a feeling of pressure or fullness in your ear. Most often than not, the causes of tinnitus in one ear might be noticeable.
The condition is common in individuals between the age of 40 and 50. However, the condition can also affect all ages including children. The available treatment can reduce the symptoms of Meniere’s disease, but it does not have any true cure because it is considered a chronic condition.
There are medications that can damage your ear and these medications are referred to as the ototoxic medications. Tinnitus is one of the side effects of taking these medications.
The effects of the medication can also be permanent or temporary depending on the dosage and the type of medication being taken. There are more than 200 over-the-counter and prescription medicines that are considered as ototoxic such as antibiotics, cancer medications, anticonvulsants, water pills, diuretics, ibuprofen, naproxen, tricyclic antidepressants and many more.
If taking medications causes you to experience tinnitus, you can contact your physician to know the alternatives to ototoxic drugs.
5. Diseases and Disorders
There are also diseases and disorders that can cause you to experience Tinnitus aside from Meniere’s disease. These disorders and diseases are fibromyalgia, diabetes, Lyme disease, thyroid disorders, depression, anxiety, thoracic outlet syndrome, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and temporomandibular joint disorder.
Health conditions like jaw misalignment, acoustic neuromas, tumors, allergies, neck or head trauma, stress, and acoustic neuromas can also cause Tinnitus.
If you have Tinnitus, you avoid activities like smoking, drinking caffeine and alcohol and listening to loud sounds without ear protection to preventing aggravating the condition. Be sure to wear ear protection when you are in a noisy environment. Special earmuffs or earplugs also prevent exacerbating the causes of Tinnitus.
A healthy lifestyle can also reduce the impact of tinnitus. It is also important to reduce emotional and physical stress as they can also intensify tinnitus. It is important to know the causes of tinnitus and treatment to prevent worsening the condition.