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What causes tinnitus – is it real or something imaginary – let us try to understand.

Tinnitus or ringing in ears is a condition in which a person hears sounds other than ringing including buzzing, roaring, clicking, humming, whistling and hissing. It is the perception of noise in the ears – rather a sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. After having exposure to loud noise for some time – some people have this sort of ringing experience in their ears.

You might have experienced a short-term hearing difficulty after having exposed to loud sounds, DJ sounds and orchestra.  It has been found that nearly 90% of people suffering from ringing in ears or tinnitus have some levels of noise-induced hearing loss. The effects of prolonged exposure to loud sounds are quite drastic for ears. In addition to loud sound exposure, there are many other causes of tinnitus.

What Causes tinnitus?

There are some professions such as heavy-repair works, pilots, carpentry, rock music that put the persons associated with them at risk of tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss. Those who repeatedly get exposed to gun sounds, repeatedly listen to loud music, work with a chain saw are at risk. Those who involve in street repair and other loud devices are among those who put themselves at risk of hearing loss. Sometimes, even a one-time sudden exposure to very loud noise can cause tinnitus.

Which is the most common cause of tinnitus?

Repeated exposure to loud sounds is the prominent cause of ringing in ears. In the cochlea of the ear – which is a spiral shape organ in the inner ear, the sound-sensitive cells get damaged permanently by prolonged exposure to noise – thus causing noise-induced hearing loss.

What are the other causes of tinnitus?

The deterioration of the cochlea of the ear or any other part due to natural ageing process; usage of certain drugs such as antibiotics, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatory drugs, quinine medications and sedatives; tumour affecting the auditory nerve that helps us in hearing; an infection of the ear and blockage of the ear due to excessive wax build-up in the ear are the other causes of tinnitus.

Head and neck injuries, certain jaw and neck issues like TMJ – temporomandibular joint syndrome, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, underactive thyroid gland, the diseases that affect the inner ear, allergies, anaemia, circulatory and cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, stiffening of middle ear’s small bones (Otosclerosis) are some of the other causes of tinnitus.

The medical conditions that can cause tinnitus include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Meniere’s disease, head and neck injuries, inner-ear hair cell damage, changes in the ear bone (middle ear bone stiffness – otosclerosis).

Circulatory and blood vessels problems

Tinnitus is highly noticeable with high blood pressure, Arteriovenous malformation (AVM), Plaque build-up in the major blood vessels that run close to the middle and inner ear. The blood flowing forcefully through them can cause tinnitus in both the ears. A tumour called vascular neoplasm can press blood vessels in the head and neck region and cause tinnitus.

What causes tinnitus to get worst?

Those who are suffering from tinnitus may experience worsening of their condition after eating some foods, drinking caffeinated beverages, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. In some persons, even depression, anxiety and stress and other psychiatric disorders seem to augment the symptoms of tinnitus.

Why you should approach an ENT specialist at the earliest?

Many of us don’t even bother to take issues of ears seriously assuming them to be less severe as compared to a heart problem or any other neurological issue, but we should never ignore even a minor issue of our ears as it may lead to a permanent hearing loss. Therefore, when you notice any issue related to your ears approach an ENT specialist as early as possible. Never consider tinnitus as a minor health issue as neglecting it sometimes prove detrimental to your health.

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