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What Causes Tinnitus?

a woman experiencing slight ear discomfort

Tinnitus is a symptom, rather than a condition, meaning that it can many causes. This also means that it can present in a wide variety of ways. This can make it difficult to pinpoint the cause in individual cases. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t know what factors can contribute to it. Here, we’re going to look at some of the most common causes of tinnitus, as well as how your ear doctor can help.

The Link to Hearing Loss

Two-thirds of all people who experience tinnitus also have some level of hearing loss. The two most common causes of hearing loss, age-related hearing loss and exposure to loud noise, are also causes of tinnitus. Tinnitus can be caused by damage to the hair cells of the inner ear, much like hearing loss. However, even in cases where hearing loss is caused by something else, it can also lead to hearing loss. As such, when an audiologist is treating you for tinnitus, they will often start with a hearing test to see if there is any undiagnosed hearing loss that can be addressed, too.

Changes toYour Hearing Health

Hearing loss isn’t the only ear health related issue that can lead to tinnitus. Blockages in the ear, such as earwax buildup, fluid buildup and middle-ear infections can all cause tinnitus. So, too, can Meniere’s disease, which is a rare disease that affects the middle ear. Physical trauma and other physical conditions like a perforated eardrum can also cause tinnitus. Your audiologist can diagnose and treat a range of ear conditions that might be contributing to your tinnitus.

Stress and Anxiety

It’s not entirely confirmed whether stress and anxiety have a causal link to tinnitus or are simply a contributing factor. However, people who experience one of the two linked conditions are much more likely to experience the others. People who experience stress also say they experience tinnitus much more acutely when they are feeling particularly stressed. As such, treatment approaches like tinnitus retraining therapy look at treating both at the same time to offer an overall improvement to quality of life.

Blood Flow and Heart Health

Some cases of tinnitus, especially pulsatile tinnitus can be linked to cardiological issues and changes in blood flow. This can include changes in chronic health like cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. However, some lifestyle changes, such as reducing caffeine, alcohol and nicotine consumption, can help address tinnitus, too. Medications that can affect blood pressure, heart rate and other heart-health factors can also affect your experience of tinnitus.

Your audiologist can help you address your tinnitus in a variety of ways. Where there is a clear underlying cause, such as hearing loss or earwax build-ups, they can treat that condition, which may cause the condition to go away. Otherwise, there are methods such as using noise-masking hearing aids, sound machines and tinnitus retraining therapy to help improve your quality of life.