The Basics Causes Behind Tinnitus
More than 50 million people in the United States suffer from tinnitus, but there are some ways to prevent and treat it. Avoid loud noises and seek medical attention if you start to experience it.
Exposure to loud noises is one of the most common causes of tinnitus. Loud noise can cause permanent damage to the cochlea, which is a small organ in the inner ear. This damage is often cumulative, getting worse during repeated exposure. People who work in careers that involve significant background noise, such as construction or factory workers, are at high risk. Musicians and people who attend a lot of concerts can also sustain damage. Even motorcycle riders who do not use ear protection can develop this kind of tinnitus.
Most people naturally start to lose their hearing as they age, with noticeable changes often occurring around age 60. This process can lead to tinnitus as the sensitive structures in the ear degrade. Age-related tinnitus often goes away on its own, and the use of hearing aids can help reduce the symptoms.
A buildup of earwax or a foreign substance can cause tinnitus in some cases. These blockages can affect the tiny hairs inside the ear, which help direct sound to the cochlea. Bent or damaged hairs can give off false signals. Severe blockages may interfere with the ear's ability to vibrate with sound or damage critical structures.
Head and neck trauma can cause tinnitus. It can cause the bones of the ear to stiffen or lock, which prevents natural vibrations that allow them to accurately pick up on environmental sounds. Nerve damage may also cause the condition because the normal communication between the ear and brain is disrupted. This type of tinnitus is often only found in one ear.
Underlying Medical Issues
Many chronic illnesses can affect the ear's normal functioning, which can lead to temporary tinnitus. High blood pressure, hormonal changes and even relatively common temporomandibular joint disorders, commonly known as TMJ, can lead to tinnitus. Allergies, diabetes, anemia and thyroid problems have also been linked with tinnitus.
It is a good idea to see your doctor as soon as you begin to experience tinnitus. While the condition is common and can be part of natural processes, many forms can be treated and may even be reversible if caught early enough. Your primary care physician can help rule out underlying medical causes and refer you to a specialist to help find the root causes and develop a treatment plan.
Tinnitus is often described as a ringing in the ears, but it can take many forms. Some people experience it as a persistent chirping, buzzing, whistling or hissing. Regardless of the specific sound, it is annoying and can prevent you from enjoying peaceful situations. There are many causes of tinnitus, and understanding them may help you prevent it or assist in diagnosis.