Tinnitus is the perception of hearing noises in the head or the ears which are not coming from the outside world. It is a common condition that affects around 15 to 20 percent of people. It is not an illness but a symptomcreated within the auditory system.
You may hear sounds such as ringing, buzzing, hissing, or whistling sounds in the head. These noises can be continuous and differ in loudness. It may be challenging to know the exact location of the noise as it can occur in both ears or head.
When the background is low, especially when sleeping at night, the noises can worsen. These noises can cause difficulty in sleeping as well as concentrating. However, the tinnitus noise is different for different individuals. Most affected persons can carry on with their typical day to day activities, while some claim tinnitus noise dramatically affects them.
It is known that tinnitus can result mainly from prolonged exposure to loud sounds. Loud noise causes permanent damage to the cochlea’s sound-sensitive cells located in the inner ear. These noises can lead to hearing loss. In most cases, tinnitus has been linked to hearing loss, but it does not cause hearing loss and vice versa.
However, most people with tinnitus experience some level of noise-induced hearing loss, but the exact connection between hearing loss and tinnitus is still being researched.
Causes of Tinnitus
Various health conditions can cause or worsen tinnitus condition. Some of the most common causes of tinnitus include:
- Loud noise- Hair cells risk being damaged due to pressure from the sound waves, leading to tinnitus.
- Earwax build-up- Earwax acts as a protective agent in the ears, protecting against bacterias’ growth and trapping dust. Excessive earwax tends to h=be hard to wash away, causing potential hearing loss or irritation in the eardrum, causing tinnitus.
- Otosclerosis- When the bones in the middle ear become stiff, it may affect your hearing and cause tinnitus.
- TMJ pains- Disorders in the temporomandibular joint, located on each side of the head, may cause tinnitus.
- Meniere’s disease-Affects the inner part of the ear
- Certain types of drugs- Tinnitus is listed as a possible side effect for almost 200 prescription and non-prescription drugs. Examples are Aspirin, classes of antibiotics, quinine medications, and antidepressants.
- Head and neck injuries- Head or neck injuries can affect the hearing nerves or the brain function associated with hearing.
- Muscle spasms- When muscles in the inner ear tense up, it can lead to tinnitus.
- Stress and anxiety- It is not clear if stress causes tinnitus. However, tinnitus may be more noticeable when you are stressed or anxious.
Certain foods, caffeine, alcoholic drinks, or cigarettes may aggravate tinnitus in some people.
What Should I Do if I Have Tinnitus?
If you notice signs and symptoms of tinnitus, it could be a symptom of an underlying condition. However, you may need to visit a tinnitus clinic and have a professional healthcare provider appropriately diagnose the underlying cause of tinnitus.