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Tinnitus causes & risk factors

Tinnitus is not always a permanent issue, and treating the underlying causes can remove or at least reduce the symptoms. That’s why it is important to understand the common causes of tinnitus.
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What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a condition where you experience a ringing, buzzing, hissing, or similar noise in one or both ears. This noise is not from an external  source as no one else around you would hear it. Instead, the noise is caused by an internal issue.

You can also decrease your chances of contracting the condition by being mindful of the common risk factors of tinnitus.

What are the risk factors?

Tinnitus Risk Factors

The common theme for any risk factor or cause of tinnitus is when the natural hearing process becomes interrupted. When your ears receive any sound, it is picked up by the inner ear hair cells. These hair cells send electric pulses through the auditory nerve to your brain to process the sound. So if the hair cells or auditory nerve become damaged, that is when tinnitus can occur.

So if you want to avoid contracting tinnitus, you first need to know what the risk factors are that can cause this kind of damage. Being proactive can help you prevent it from occurring in the first place. Here are the most common risk factors:

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Exposure to Loud Noise

Regular exposure to loud noise, whether sudden or constant, can increase the risk of tinnitus by damaging the hearing nerve and hair cells. This is common in environments with loud machinery or military settings.
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Cardiovascular Disorders

High blood pressure, heart disease, and other cardiovascular issues are risk factors for tinnitus. This can include obesity and diabetes, both which may impact on your cardiovascular health.
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Smoking and Drinking Alcohol

Smoking and drinking alcohol regularly can increase the risk of tinnitus. Nicotine damages the auditory nerve, while alcohol affects blood vessels and blood flow in the ears.
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You are increasingly likely to develop tinnitus as you get older. This is due to the increased chance of your hearing mechanisms becoming damaged.
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Injuries or Trauma

Having a history of injuries or trauma in your head or neck will increase the risk of developing tinnitus with each new injury.
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Tinnitus is more common in men than women. While there is no helping this, men should be more careful in avoiding the other common risk factors.
Most common causes of tinnitus

Common Risk Factors Associated with Tinnitus

While the risk factors increase the chances of developing tinnitus, they are not direct causes. What causes tinnitus to occur are things that directly lead to the damage or blockage of your hearing process. Here are the most common causes.
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Ear Blockage

There are several ways that your ear canals may be blocked, including:

  • Excessive or impacted earwax
  • Abnormal growth (e.g., Otosclerosis)
  • Tumours
  • Ear infection and other kinds of swelling or inflammation
  • Meniere’s disease that causes excess fluid to build up in your ear and muffled sound
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Physical Issues

Tinnitus can stem from physical issues involving trauma or changes affecting the bones, joints, or muscles in the head or neck. These include:

  • Head or neck trauma that damages hearing.
  • Neck or jaw conditions like Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD).
  • Problems with the eustachian tube connecting the middle ear to the throat.

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Medication Side Effects

Some medications can cause or worsen tinnitus, with severity depending on the dose. Stopping or switching to drugs without this side effect can often resolve it. Common medications to avoid include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Aspirin, Motrin, and Aleve
  • Certain antibacterial and cancer medications
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Blood Disorders

In order to function properly, your inner ear hair cells and auditory nerve need a consistent quality and quantity of blood and blood flow. If that is disrupted in any way, it can often lead to tinnitus. That means there are a variety of health disorders relating to your blood that can be associated with tinnitus, including the following:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Head and neck tumors
  • High blood pressure
  • Turbulent blood flow
  • Malformation of capillaries
  • Anemia
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Various Illnesses, Diseases, and Other Health Issues

Lastly, there is an assortment of various health issues that can lead to temporary or permanent tinnitus. These include various illnesses, diseases, and specific conditions that can affect your hearing. They include:

  • Allergies
  • Thyroid issues
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal changes, mostly in women
What can worsen tinnitus?
If you already have tinnitus, there are certain things that can make your symptoms worse. These cause the ringing, buzzing or hissing sound to be louder and more persistent. They include:
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Certain foods that affect blood flow
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
If you are experiencing an increase in the severity of your symptoms, try reducing or cutting out certain substances. You may also find that being stressed and tired increases the symptoms as well. Being able to reduce your levels of stress and improve your quality of sleep will also help manage your symptoms.
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Now that you know the common risk factors of tinnitus, you will be better equipped to avoid it as much as possible. If you think you have tinnitus and are looking for a diagnosis, our clinics can help.

You will be asked a number of questions that help us identify the underlying causes. In some cases, our hearing healthcare professional may be able to provide direct help to manage your condition.

You can contact us at any time for more information, or to book an appointment at our local clinic.

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Tinnitus symptoms

The important thing is seeking help as soon as you notice the symptoms. The earlier you can have an underlying cause treated, the less likely it will wind up a permanent issue.
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Tinnitus treatments and remedies

Tinnitus is a hearing disorder that may not seem like a major health issue, but it does have an impact on your life. Hearing the constant ringing in your ears can lead to things like fatigue, depression and anxiety. It can also cause issues with your sleep quality, concentration and memory.
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Types of tinnitus

If you think you have tinnitus, it is important to know what the type is. There are a few different kinds relating to the underlying cause, which affects how it can be treated. Read on to see our full guide on the different types of tinnitus.

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