The Cause of Tinnitus Remains Unknown
Despite the advances of modern medicine, we’re still learning about what causes tinnitus.
Part of the reason for this is it can be hard to research tinnitus and develop new treatments because it’s such a varied condition. Although exactly what causes tinnitus remains unknown, we’re constantly learning more about triggers and contributing factors.
Tinnitus contributing factors include those that directly affect your ears or hearing, underlying medical conditions, or even common substances.
Conditions of the Ear That May Trigger Tinnitus
The most common underlying condition related to tinnitus is age-related hearing loss. Most people’s hearing worsens with age as the number of functioning nerve fibres in our ears declines. Tinnitus can also be triggered by:
If you’ve ever watched your favourite band play live, you probably left with a short-lived episode of tinnitus. People who are regularly exposed to loud noises, such as musicians or construction workers, are at greater risk of developing tinnitus. Over time, loud noise damages the tiny hairs in your ears that send messages to your brain.
It usually does a vital job in keeping our ears healthy but if earwax builds up and blocks your ear canal, it can irritate your eardrum, causing hearing loss and tinnitus.
There are many causes of a perforated eardrum, including an infection like otitis media, a sudden loud noise like an explosion, or trauma such as a direct blow to the head or ear, changes in air pressure while flying, or an injury during surgery.
Eustachian tubes can become inflamed and swollen because of a cold, sore throat, sinusitis, hayfever, allergies, deviated nasal septum or nasal polyps. As a result of inflammation and swelling the tubes may become blocked and this is called Eustachian tube dysfunction
Medicines and Other Substances That May Trigger Tinnitus
Some everyday substances and medicines may have a side-effect of triggering or worsening tinnitus. Usually, this goes away when you stop taking the medication or cut down on the substance.
- Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol
- Some antibiotics
- Some cancer medications
- High-dose aspirin
- Quinine (often used for malaria)
- Some diuretics (used to treat water retention)
Underlying Medical Conditions That May Trigger Tinnitus
Your body’s systems are interwoven and delicately balanced. A health condition that primarily affects one part of your body may have surprising knock-on effects including tinnitus. Conditions that are linked to tinnitus include:
Cardiovascular diseases that impact blood flow such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and malformations of the small arteries.
Neurological disorders including Meniere’s disease, multiple sclerosis or migraine headaches.
This may be present at the onset of tinnitus and may also worsen existing tinnitus.