What are the causes of tinnitus?

Tinnitus causes

There are a number of known causes of tinnitus, including several different medical conditions, exposure to loud noises, a buildup of ear wax and more.

It can often be difficult to understand the root causes of tinnitus, but, like many ear conditions, it is often associated with hearing loss, particularly in older people. As you age, the delicate hairs in your inner ear can become damaged, affecting how sound is transported to your brain. If the hairs inside your inner ear aren't working as they should, there is a reduction in nerve impulses to your brain.

There are many other factors that also cause the condition. We’ve outlined some of the common causes of tinnitus, as well as a few rarer occurrences, which can help you to take appropriate precautions in situations that may affect your hearing.

Exposure to loud noise

If you regularly use heavy machinery, listen to music at loud volumes or operate firearms, tinnitus could become a problem. While short-term exposure to loud noise, such as attending a concert, may have temporary effects, long-term use without appropriate hearing protection can cause permanent damage.

Otosclerosis

This is the medical term for a stiffening of bones in the ear. Otosclerosis is an abnormal bone growth condition, normally passed down through genetics. This condition can cause partial deafness as well as tinnitus.

Ear wax buildup

Although a healthy level of ear wax can help protect your ear canal from unwanted bacteria, compacted or excessive wax can lead to hearing loss or tinnitus. If you experience noticeably high wax levels you should make an appointment with your local doctor or nurse trained hearing healthcare professional to have them professionally cleaned on a regular basis.

Other causes

Tinnitus can also be the result of:

  • Middle ear infection - an earache-causing condition that often affects hearing
  • Ménière's disease - a condition that causes abnormal fluid pressure to develop in the inner ear
  • High blood pressure - may result in a pulse-like tinnitus
  • A perforated eardrum - a tear in the eardrum that prevents hearing and makes you susceptible to infections
  • Hyperthyroidism - an overactive thyroid gland
  • Adverse reaction to medication - when consumed in quantities that exceed the recommended dosage. Examples include antibiotics, diuretics and aspirin.
  • Solvent, drug or alcohol abuse
  • Conditions affecting the acoustic nerve

For more unusual cases when tinnitus affects only one ear or symptoms are much louder in one ear than the other, a medical examination, preferably by an ENT Specialist, is necessary to understand whether it’s being caused by a condition requiring medical or surgical treatment.

For more information on how you can help reduce the effects of tinnitus, visit our tinnitus treatments page or visit your local National Hearing Care clinic for help or support from an experienced audiologist or audiometrist.

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Australians living with tinnitus

One in ten Aussies are coping with tinnitus, a condition which causes buzzing in the ears.

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