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Do You Have Tinnitus?

a woman experiencing slight ear discomfort

Tinnitus is when you experience the sensation of ringing or other noises in one or both of your ears. The noise you hear is not caused by an external sound and can affect about 15-20% of people. Tinnitus is usually caused by an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss or a problem with the circulatory system. But how do you know if you have tinnitus?

The Symptoms of Tinnitus

While tinnitus is usually described as ringing in the ears, tinnitus can take the form of other noises, such as missing, roaring, buzzing and clicking. Many people who have tinnitus can experience the noises in different pitches.

The Causes of Tinnitus

There are a number of health conditions that can cause or worsen the symptoms of tinnitus. In many cases, an exact cause is not found, but in many people, tinnitus can be caused by one of the following:

Hearing loss

There are the hairs that move when you receive sound waves, and if these hairs are damaged or exposed to loud sounds, the resulting electrical impulses that are sent to your brain cause tinnitus.

Medications

Many medications can cause or worsen the symptoms of tinnitus. For example, antibiotics, diuretics, and antidepressants have been known to cause symptoms of tinnitus.

Ear canal blockage

If your ear canals become blocked with a buildup of fluid or earwax, the pressure in your ear can change, resulting in tinnitus.

The Risk Factors of Tinnitus

Anybody can experience tinnitus, but some of the following factors could increase your risk:

Age

As you get older, your potential for hearing problems can increase, increasing your risk of tinnitus.

Exposure to loud noise

Headphones, heavy equipment, and firearms can cause noise-related hearing loss if exposed for long periods. People who work in noisy environments are particularly at risk of tinnitus.

Use of alcohol and tobacco

Drinking alcohol and smoking increases the risk of developing tinnitus as nicotine interferes with the neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve, and alcohol can increase blood flow to the inner ear.

Specific health problems

There are many health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity and even anxiety, depression, and memory problems that can impact the symptoms of tinnitus.

How Can You Protect Against the Symptoms of Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can be caused by something that you cannot prevent, but there are things you can do to protect the symptoms going forward:

  • Using hearing protection: Limiting your exposure to loud noises can protect your hearing. You can use over-the-ear hearing protection or earplugs.
  • Looking after your cardiovascular health: By eating well, exercising regularly, and making sure your blood pressure is at the right level will keep your blood vessels healthy.
  • Limiting alcohol, nicotine and caffeine: If you consume these substances in excess, they can impact your blood flow, which contributes to symptoms of tinnitus.

As you can see, there are several contributing factors to tinnitus. If you have any concerns or you feel that you need more information, it's important to book an appointment with an audiologist. They can confirm the presence of tinnitus and give you some advice on how to improve the symptoms.