what causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus refers to a sound in one or both of the ears, usually a ringing or buzzing noise, that happens without external sound stimulus. Tinnitus is fairly common-- About one in five people aged 55 to 65 years old suffer from this condition.
Tinnitus isn’t a disease. Instead, it’s a symptom that can arise from many different causes, including ear infections and other diseases, certain drugs, blocked auditory canals, foreign objects, and wax buildup. Still, the single most common cause of tinnitus is noise-induced hearing loss.
One of the common root causes of tinnitus is damage to the cells of the inner ear. These small, sensitive, hair-like cells respond to changes in air pressure generated by sound waves entering your ear. This stimulation spurs the cells to send a nerve impulse from your ear to your brain; the brain then interprets these impulses as sound. If these cells become damaged or broken, they can transmit random “static” noise, which you may hear as an annoying buzzing or ringing sound in your ears.
Common causes of tinnitus
In my practice, I often treat patients whose tinnitus resulted from the following frequent causes—
Age-related loss of hearing. As with the other senses, beginning at about 60 years of age hearing usually worsens; the medical term is presbycusis. In general, loss of hearing often leads to tinnitus.
Noise-induced hearing loss. Over time, exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss and result in tinnitus. Industrial machinery, loud saws and firearms are often blamed for noise-induced hearing loss. And, music consistently played at loud volumes over long periods of time can also cause hearing loss and tinnitus.
Although most problems of “ringing in the ears” caused by short-term exposure to loud music, concerts or noise usually disappear quickly on their own, still I recommend a certain tinnitus treatment that works well with many patients whose tinnitus has resulted from long-term exposure to loud music or noise.
Ear canals blocked by earwax. Earwax is naturally produced by the body to help clean and protect the ear canal; it serves to trap dirt and inhibit the growth of bacteria. Yet, when it accumulates and hardens into a cerumen impaction, earwax can cause hearing loss or irritation leading to tinnitus.
Changes in the ear bones. Some people suffer a problem from stiffening of the bones of the inner ear as a result of abnormal bone growth, called otosclerosis; this seems to be a family trait.
Other, less-common causes of tinnitus abound, but none are a standard as the ones listed above.