Tinnitus is a condition associated with ringing in the ears or hearing other kinds of noise, including buzzing and hissing. These noises are not caused by external sound sources but come from inside you due to several underlying health conditions.
Tinnitus may be due to simple reasons such as old age and taking a medication that induces tinnitus. Or more severe health problems, including ear trauma, high blood pressure, Meniere’s disease, or temporomandibular joint disorders.
This condition is a fairly common one, occurring mostly in older adults. Tinnitus can either be subjective – that is, you’re the only one that can hear it – or objective – you and other people can hear it.
Let’s discover the 7 most common causes of tinnitus:
Atherosclerosis is one of the many possible causes of pulsatile tinnitus. It happens when plaque, such as fats, cholesterol, and other waste materials, builds up in your arteries, causing irregular or turbulent blood flow.
One of the signs you may notice if you have this condition is rhythmic noise in one of your ears. That does not include when you are angry, frightened, or emotional. But if you hear this rhythmic noise regularly, contact your physician.
2. High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to circulate blood around your body system. Normal blood pressure is defined to be less than 120/80 mmHg. Anything above means your heart needs to work harder to pump blood to the cells and tissues that need it. That implies an increase in pumping force, which is easily noticed by your ears.
High blood pressure can lead to changes in your blood viscosity, causing less blood and oxygen to flow to your inner ear structures. If that is left untreated, it can lead to hearing problems or hearing loss. Kinked or narrowed blood vessels around the neck can also lead to increased blood pressure, which consequently disrupts blood flow in the body, leads to tinnitus, and ultimately cause an aneurism.
Tinnitus can be a symptom of acoustic neuromas. These are benign tumors that slowly grow on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. As they grow and expand, the tumors damage the adjacent brain stem and vital nerves and cause symptoms such as dizziness, hearing loss, unsteady balance, and tinnitus in the affected ear.
Acoustic neuroma is benign, which means they are not severe and are rarely malignant unless left untreated. If you notice any of the symptoms, book an appointment with a specialist.
4. Meniere’s disease
This condition affects the inner ear, causing problems such as vertigo – a type of dizziness –, occasional hearing loss, pressure in your ear, and tinnitus. Meniere’s disease only affects one ear, and if not managed, it can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Meniere’s disease is believed by scientists to be caused by a buildup of fluid in the part of the inner ear that supports hearing and balance. The excess fluid affects the brain’s signals from the ear, leading to the symptoms mentioned above, including tinnitus. However, the exact cause of the condition is still unknown.
5. Head and Neck Injuries
Tinnitus can be a result of injuries to the head or neck. That occurs when the nerves involved in hearing are damaged or compressed due to the injury, leading to somatic tinnitus. This condition usually affects only one ear, but in some cases where it may affect both ears – though rare.
Somatic injuries are more severe than other types of tinnitus, and you may find it difficult to sleep, relax, or concentrate if you have the condition.
6. Malformation of Capillaries
An AVM, cerebral arteriovenous malformation, is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins in the brain. This condition occurs when the veins connect directly to the arteries without the blood capillaries. AVM develops at birth, and the symptoms start surfacing at ages 15 to 20.
When an AVM ruptures, it can cause brain haemorrhage or blood leaks to the tissues around the brain, leading to reduced blood flow to the brain. Symptoms resulting from these include pulsatile tinnitus, headache, seizures, and confusion. In a more severe case, AVM can cause vision problems, facial numbness, and dizziness.
7. TMJ Dysfunctions
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is one of the jaw muscles that allow the various movements needed in chewing. TMJ problems occur when there is a dislocation to the fibrous disc, pulled muscle, or trauma. Due to the TMJ muscles’ connection to the bones, muscles, and part of the brain involved with hearing, TMJ disorder can cause tinnitus or aggravate pre-existing tinnitus.
Apart from tinnitus, TMJ disorder can cause earache, clunking of the jaw, and difficulty opening your mouth, and in some cases, neck pain and inflammation of the joint. To treat TMJ, your dentist may recommend bite realignment to help with teeth grinding and clenched jaw. Also, jaw muscle relaxation can help alleviate TMJ.