Tinnitus is the perception of sound, commonly described as a “ringing in the ears,” that occurs when no external noise is actually present. Tinnitus can be either a temporary condition or a chronic and extremely bothersome ailment.
These noises can be perceived in many different ways depending on the person experiencing it. They may be low or high in pitch, and they may not always be heard in both ears. In the most severe cases, the noises are so loud that they interfere with one’s ability to hear real external sounds or even their ability to concentrate.
Some describe this noise phenomenon as
- And even musical noises.
The Two Types of Tinnitus
Subjective Tinnitus — is tinnitus that only the sufferer hears. This type is more common and may be caused impairments to parts of the ear. It may also be caused by nerve issues or auditory pathways within the brain that interpret sound.
Objective Tinnitus — is a rare type of tinnitus that can be heard by a doctor or nurse in an examination. It may be caused by damaged blood vessels, a middle earbone condition, or muscle contractions in or around the ear.
In many cases, the exact cause of tinnitus is not identified. Though, there are multiple health conditions that have been known to causes or intensify tinnitus.
Conditions that Cause Tinnitus
Hair cell damage in the ear is one of the more common causes. The tiny hairs in your inner ear are actually a key part of the complex framework your body needs to process sound. When they are damaged, they can leak electrical signals to the brain causing tinnitus.
Ear impairments, chronic health conditions, mental conditions, trauma to the ear, or nerves in the part of the brain dedicated to hearing may all cause tinnitus as well.
Many of the above-listed causes of tinnitus are preceded by one or more of the following:
- Presbycusis AKA Age-related hearing loss
- Exposure to extremely loud noises
- Earwax blockage
- Otosclerosis AKA Ear bone or nerve damage
Some less common causes of tinnitus include:
- Meniere’s disease — which causes abnormal ear fluid pressure;
- TMJ disorders — which affects the joint where the jaw meets the ears;
- Head or neck trauma — which usually causes tinnitus in one ear;
- Acoustic neuroma — a benign tumor on the cranial nerve;
- Eustachian tube dysfunction — which causes disfunction between the tube connecting the middle ear and the upper throat; and
- Muscle spasms in the inner ear — which may be caused by neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.
Medications That May Cause Tinnitus
Certain medications may cause or intensify tinnitus. Typically, the higher the dose of these medications, the worse the tinnitus may become.
These medications have been known to include:
- Antibiotics, including polymyxin B, erythromycin, vancomycin (Vancocin HCL, Firvanq) and neomycin
- Cancer medications, including methotrexate (Trexall) and cisplatin
- Diuretics (water pills), such as bumetanide (Bumex), ethacrynic acid (Edecrin) or furosemide (Lasix)
- Certain antidepressants, which may worsen tinnitus
- Aspirin taken in uncommonly high doses (usually 12 or more a day)
- Quinine medications used for malaria or other health conditions
Nicotine, caffeine, and certain herbal supplements can cause tinnitus as well.
Complications That May Arise From Tinnitus
Tinnitus has the potential to greatly affect the quality of those who have it.
Symptoms that commonly accompany severe tinnitus include:
- Concentration Difficulty
- Memory Impairment