Tinnitus refers to perceiving sounds originating within your body rather than from external sources. Frequently characterized as “ear ringing,” various sounds may be perceived, such as:
Some individuals might hear music or singing-like sounds, while others experience noise synchronizing with their pulse (pulsatile tinnitus).
You may also observe a decline in hearing capabilities or increased sensitivity to ordinary sounds (hyperacusis).
What is the main cause of tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears when no external sound is present. The exact cause of tinnitus is not fully understood, but it is often associated with various factors and conditions. Some of the main reasons and risk factors include:
- Hearing loss: Age-related hearing loss or noise-induced hearing loss can damage the hair cells in the inner ear, leading to tinnitus.
- Ear damage: Injuries to the ear, such as infection, a foreign object, or earwax buildup, can cause tinnitus.
- Ototoxic medications: Certain medications, including some antibiotics, diuretics, and cancer treatments, can cause or worsen tinnitus as a side effect.
- Meniere’s disease: This inner ear disorder is often accompanied by tinnitus.
- Acoustic neuroma: A benign tumor on the vestibulocochlear nerve can cause tinnitus, usually in one ear.
- Eustachian tube dysfunction: A dysfunction in the Eustachian tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat can cause tinnitus.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders: Problems with the joint connecting the jaw to the skull can cause tinnitus.
- Head and neck injuries: Injuries affecting nerves related to hearing can lead to tinnitus.
- Cardiovascular issues: High blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and other circulatory issues can cause tinnitus.
It’s important to note that the underlying cause of tinnitus can be challenging to pinpoint and can sometimes arise without an identifiable reason. Treatment for tinnitus depends on the cause and may include addressing underlying health conditions, using hearing aids, sound therapy, or behavioral therapies to help manage the symptoms.
Is it a serious issue?
Tinnitus is seldom indicative of a severe underlying problem. For some, it might be intermittent and only mildly irritating.
However, for others, it can significantly disrupt daily life, causing distress, impairing concentration, and leading to insomnia and depression.
In many instances, tinnitus improves gradually, either by disappearing or through habituation. Nonetheless, seeking medical guidance to determine and treat any underlying causes and help you cope with the issue is crucial.