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Is Tinnitus a Sign of Hearing Loss? Understanding Its Symptoms and Causes

Oct 27, 2020 | Blog

Have you experienced hearing a noise in your head sometimes? Known as tinnitus, ringing in the ears is quite common, and it goes away after a little while. It is mildly annoying and mostly harmless. However, there are rare chances that it can be a sign of a significant health problem.

You should educate yourself to understand what it is, why you experience it, and what it could mean for your health.

We’re going to discuss what tinnitus is, its symptoms and causes, and how it could relate to hearing loss.

What is Tinnitus?

People most commonly relate tinnitus to being a ringing sound in their head that they can sometimes hear without any external source. For many people, it is a ringing sound. Other people might hear a range of different sounds.

Sometimes, the sound could seem like it’s coming from one ear or both. You could feel that it’s coming from far away, or it could sound like it’s right in your head. Tinnitus can also be constant, pulsating, or even intermittent.

Everybody experiences tinnitus at some point in their life. Most cases are short-lived after being exposed to very loud noises. If you have been to a live concert and stood near the speakers, you might know what we’re talking about.

Tinnitus is not particularly a condition itself. You could think of it more as a symptom of underlying conditions. While tinnitus can be annoying, it is usually nothing to worry about. However, it’s crucial to understand why you might be experiencing it to determine whether it’s a sign of a major problem, or you could just let it be.

Symptoms of Tinnitus

Tinnitus is when you hear sounds when there is no external source present in front of you. Symptoms of tinnitus can vary from person to person, but it can include different phantom sounds like:

● Ringing

● Buzzing

● Roaring

● Clicking

● Hissing

● Shrieking

● Humming

The phantom noise can range in its pitch and loudness. Sometimes, it is barely noticeable. In other cases, it could be loud enough that it constantly distracts you.

Kinds of Tinnitus

There are two types of tinnitus you can experience:

Subjective Tinnitus: This is when only you can just hear the phantom sound. It’s the most common type of tinnitus and usually nothing to worry about. It could happen due to problems with your inner, middle, or outer ear areas.

Objective Tinnitus: Objective tinnitus is when a medical professional checking your ear can also hear the sound. This is very rare, but it could be a sign of various problems.

If you ever experience tinnitus that’s bothering you, you should not waste any time in going to a medical professional specializing in otolaryngology.

Causes of Tinnitus

There are several reasons you can experience tinnitus. Some of them are very common causes, and you have nothing to worry about. Other causes could include health conditions, injuries, or even problems with the hearing center in your brain.

The Most Common Causes of Tinnitus

Age-Related Hearing Loss

Age-related hearing loss is a common cause of tinnitus. Your hearing can worsen as you get older. Also known as presbycusis, age-related hearing loss can cause tinnitus, typically around the age of 60.

Being Around Loud Noises

The most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises. If you are around heavy machinery, firearms, attending loud concerts, or even listening to loud music on your headphones for a long time, you can experience tinnitus. Short-term exposure can cause tinnitus that goes away after a little while. Long-term exposure can cause permanent damage, and the tinnitus can get worse.

Changes in Ear Bones

Otosclerosis, or the stiffening of bones in your middle ear region, can also cause tinnitus and affect your hearing. This happens due to unusual bone growth and can be hereditary.

Earwax Blockage

The earwax protects your ear canal by showing bacterial growth and capturing dirt, so it doesn’t go into your inner ear. Excessive earwax in your ear canal can make it challenging for the earwax to go away naturally, leading to earwax blockage. It can result in a partial loss of hearing or irritation in your eardrum, and subsequently tinnitus.

Other Causes of Tinnitus

Uncommon Reasons You Could Experience Tinnitus

There are a few uncommon causes of tinnitus that can include:

TMJ disorders: Problems with the temporomandibular joint on each side of your head where the lower jawbone meets the skull can result in tinnitus.

Meniere’s disease: Tinnitus can be an early sign of Meniere’s disease. It’s an ear condition that can result from abnormal inner ear fluid pressure.

Eustachian tube dysfunction: Tinnitus could be a sign of Eustachian tube dysfunction. The tube connecting the ear to your throat can expand, making your ear feel full.

Acoustic neuroma: Also called vestibular schwannoma, this condition can cause tinnitus in one year. It happens due to a benign tumor growing on the nerve connecting your inner ear to your brain.

Inner ear muscle spasms: Muscle spasms in the inner ear can cause fullness of the ears, hearing loss, and tinnitus. It can happen due to neurological diseases or without any reason.

Head or neck injuries: Suffering an injury in your head or neck can affect the brain function linked with hearing, nerves, or the inner ear. Typically, such injuries cause tinnitus in one year.

Blood Vessel Disorders

Tinnitus can also be a sign of certain blood vessel disorders. This type of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus, and it can happen due to:

Tumors in the head or neck: Benign growth that puts pressure on blood vessels in the head or neck can cause tinnitus.

Hypertension: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus or worsen tinnitus if you’re already experiencing it.

Capillary malformation: Known as arteriovenous malformation, it’s a condition where you have abnormal connections between veins and arteries that can cause tinnitus in one ear.

Atherosclerosis: As you become older, blood vessels close to your ear can begin to stiffen due to cholesterol deposits. It can cause blood flow to become more intense and result in tinnitus.

Measures to Prevent Tinnitus

Most cases of tinnitus are short-term and unpreventable. However, there are measures you can take to reduce the risk of certain types of tinnitus.

If your work environment exposes you to consistent loud noises, you should take better measures to protect your ears. Prolonged exposure to loud noises can cause tinnitus and gradually result in permanent damage that can cause partial or complete hearing loss. Always cover your ears with over-ear hearing protection to minimize the risk of tinnitus.

Musicians and music enthusiasts who love listening to loud music should consider turning down the volume a notch. Excessive exposure to loud music through speakers or headphones can cause tinnitus and gradual hearing loss.

If you suffer from hypertension, taking good care of your heart health can reduce the chances of developing tinnitus. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and taking other measures to keep your blood vessels healthy can prevent tinnitus caused by blood vessel disorders.

Always Consult Professionals Who Listen

With over 35 years of experience, Oklahoma Hearing Center’s team of expert audiologists and the medical doctors at Oklahoma Otolaryngology Associates can provide you with unmatched hearing healthcare.

If you are experiencing tinnitus and are concerned about your hearing, we can provide you with the hearing healthcare you need. Book an Appointment here or call us at 405.546.4280 to learn how we can help.