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Tinnitus (cont.)

Tinnitus Causes

Tinnitus is not a disease in itself but rather a reflection of something else that is going on in the hearing system or brain.

  • Probably the most common cause for tinnitus is hearing loss. As we age, or because of trauma to the ear (through noise, drugs, or chemicals), the portion of the ear that allows us to hear, the cochlea, becomes damaged.
    • Current theories suggest that because the cochlea is no longer sending the normal signals to the brain, the brain becomes confused and essentially develops its own noise to make up for the lack of normal sound signals. This then is interpreted as a sound, tinnitus.
    • This tinnitus can be made worse by anything that makes our hearing worse, such as ear infection or excess wax in the ear.
    • Tinnitus caused by ear trauma is usually noticed in both ears, because both ears are usually exposed to the same noises, drugs, and other influences
    • Loud noise exposure is a very common cause of tinnitus today, and it often damages hearing as well. Unfortunately, many people are unconcerned about the harmful effects of excessively loud noise from firearms, high intensity music, or other sources.
    • Ten million Americans have suffered irreversible noise-induced hearing loss, and 30 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day, according to the NIDCD.
  • Other causes of tinnitus include drugs such as aspirin (if overused), aminoglycoside antibiotics (a powerful form of infection-fighting drug), and quinine.
  • Meniere's disease includes dizziness, tinnitus, and fullness in the ear or hearing loss that can last for hours, but then goes away. This disease is actually caused by a problem in the ear itself. The tinnitus is merely a symptom.
  • A rare cause of subjective tinnitus includes a certain type of brain tumor known as an acoustic neuroma. The tumors grow on the nerve that supplies hearing and can cause tinnitus. This type of tinnitus is usually only noticed in one ear, unlike the more common sort caused by hearing loss usually seen in both ears.
  • Causes of objective tinnitus are usually easier to find.
  • Pulsatile tinnitus is usually related to blood flow, either through normal or abnormal blood vessels near the ear. Causes of pulsatile tinnitus include pregnancy, anemia (lack of blood cells), overactive thyroid, or tumors involving blood vessels near the ear. Pulsatile tinnitus can also be caused by a condition known as benign intracranial hypertension-an increase in the pressure of the fluid surrounding the brain.
  • Clicking types of objective tinnitus can be caused by jaw joint misalignment (TMJ) problems or muscles of the ear or throat "twitching."
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/12/2014

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Inner Ear, Tinnitus »

Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the head or the ears.

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