5 Possible Causes of Tinnitus

Are you experiencing ringing or other noises in one or both of your ears? Is there constant noise in your head yet there is no external sound source present? Is the sound so loud it interferes with your ability to concentrate? If you answered yes, then you may be suffering from a common problem that causes phantom noises in your ears called, tinnitus. Tinnitus isn't a disease; it refers to the perception of sounds in the ear that don't come from the external environment. It affects about 15% to 20% of people and is especially common in older adults over age 55. Tinnitus is often out of a person's control, but some factors may increase the likelihood of this condition. Below are 5 causes of tinnitus that you may want to take note of.

Cause #1: Age

This is one of the most common causes of tinnitus. Although tinnitus doesn't discriminate and can affect anyone, people over 65 are most likely to experience long-term tinnitus. This is due to the deterioration of cochlea or other parts of the ear due to the natural aging process.

Cause #2: Ear Blockages

This is another common cause, and luckily, one that is easily spotted and treated by a medical practitioner. Cotton swabs and earbuds can push earwax back into the ear canal causing a blockage. This can create an accumulation of earwax that blocks the auditory nerve that allows us to hear. This blockage can change the pressure in your ear, causing tinnitus.

Cause #3: Loud Noises

Most of us experience short term tinnitus at some point in our life; especially after being exposed to extremely loud noises. A concert would be one great example of this. However, frequent, chronic exposure to heavy machinery, saws, firearms, or other loud devices without proper hearing protection increases your risk of developing permanent or long-term tinnitus.

Cause #4: Head or Neck Injuries

Approximately one in ten cases of tinnitus are due to head or neck injuries. Trauma to the head can affect the brainstem structures and nerves that are involved in hearing. When these structures and nerves are compressed or damaged due to trauma, it can impact the inner ear and damage the cells in your ears. An example of this would be whiplash, concussions or fractures.

Cause #5: High Blood Pressure

Having high blood pressure may make you more susceptible to tinnitus. High blood pressure can cause changes to your blood viscosity and makes blood move through your veins and arteries with more force. This increased thickness of the blood can mean that less blood flows through the capillaries that supply your inner ear structures and, as a result, less oxygen reaches this part of your ear.

If you suffer from tinnitus, certain behaviors such as drinking alcohol, smoking or using other tobacco products, and drinking caffeinated beverages have been shown to make it worse and should be avoided whenever possible. Also, it's advisable to use hearing protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs, in all situations where exposure to loud noise is prolonged.