Tinnitus affects almost 50 million Americans every year. Because it is such a common hearing condition, it’s not surprising to learn that it has many different potential causes. From exposure to loud noises to aging, there are many different reasons you might be experiencing tinnitus.
Several medical conditions can result in tinnitus noise. In this post, we explore some of the most common disorders that contribute to tinnitus.
Types of Tinnitus
There are two main types of tinnitus. The most common is known as subjective tinnitus, which is a form of tinnitus that can only be heard by you. There is also objective tinnitus, which is much rarer. What makes objective tinnitus unique is that it can actually be heard by others. Your audiologists in the area or primary care doctor may be able to hear objective tinnitus by using a stethoscope.
Objective tinnitus is often caused by muscle spasms in the ear or a vascular disorder. Sometimes the structural issue can be corrected, which can reduce or eliminate the sound of tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus has many different causes, including exposure to loud noise, aging, and certain medical conditions. It involves the auditory cortex, the portion of the brain that is responsible for hearing.
There are many different actual sounds of tinnitus. Some people hear a high-pitched ringing noise, while others will hear a buzzing, humming, or roaring. Additionally, tinnitus can be persistent or intermittent, depending on the level of severity and its cause.
Symptoms of Tinnitus
Some people hardly notice their tinnitus, and it may only bother them at certain times, such as when they’re trying to fall asleep at night. However, for others, tinnitus can be very disruptive to their daily lives. According to the American Tinnitus Association, “roughly 20 million people struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus, while 2 million have extreme and debilitating cases.”
Tinnitus is closely linked with stress. Stress can exacerbate tinnitus symptoms, which can result in even more stress. Sadly, this cyclical pattern is all too familiar for many people living with tinnitus.
Bothersome tinnitus can lead to behavioral changes, such as isolation. You may find it difficult to communicate with others because you simply can’t hear them over the roar of your tinnitus. You may also have trouble completing daily tasks or functioning normally at your job because it’s so hard to focus.
Tinnitus can be very distracting and frustrating, resulting in an overall negative impact on your life. To determine the severity of your tinnitus, consider taking our detailed Tinnitus Impact Survey.
Medical Conditions Associated with Tinnitus
Several different medical conditions can result in tinnitus. Some of the most common include:
- Head and neck injuries: Head and neck injuries can result in tinnitus. They can cause issues with your blood flow, nerves, or muscles that can lead to hearing changes. With traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), the damaged areas of the brain can lead to a perception of tinnitus.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Changes in the inner ear and auditory nerve can cause tinnitus. If you are an adult with tinnitus, the first medical condition that should be ruled out is sensorineural hearing loss caused by genetics, noise exposure, or aging.
- Ear infections: Ear infections can lead to blockages in the ear, such as a buildup of earwax. Tinnitus can manifest as a result of this inner ear blockage.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure and the factors that contribute to it (such as stress or caffeine) can result in much more noticeable tinnitus.
- Autoimmune disorders: Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, can cause tinnitus. The National Institutes of Health reports that peripheral auditory dysfunction can result in changes that eventually lead to tinnitus in patients with autoimmune diseases.
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction: The temporomandibular joint (TMJ)is the joint that connects the jaw to the skull. It is common to have issues with this joint, which can lead to tinnitus. The muscles, ligaments, and nerves in the jaw and inner ear can be affected by TMJ dysfunction, which can cause tinnitus.
- Ménière’s disease: Ménière’s disease is an inner ear disorder that usually develops at a young age. It can cause several symptoms, including vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus.
- Hormone changes: Hormonal fluctuations can also result in tinnitus. In women, periods of hormone variability can trigger or worsen tinnitus symptoms. PMS, menopause and pregnancy have all been shown to cause an increase in tinnitus.
- Diabetes: Diabetes can lead to tinnitus for a couple of reasons. The lack of blood flow that is common with diabetes can cause tinnitus. Additionally, the elevated blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can contribute to tinnitus symptoms.
- Colds and sinus problems: The American Tinnitus Association reports that “Nasal congestion from a severe cold, flu, or sinus infection can create abnormal pressure in the middle ear, impacting normal hearing and causing tinnitus symptoms.”
Take Control of Your Tinnitus
Whether your tinnitus is caused by a medical condition, structural damage, aging, or any other factor, it can be disruptive–even maddening–at times. Many people deal with chronic, bothersome tinnitus, which can make daily life difficult and less enjoyable.
However, there are treatment options available for tinnitus that have proven highly effective over time. If you are living with tinnitus, the team at Sound Relief is here to help you find the relief you deserve.