If you hear a high-pitched ringing, buzzing, whooshing, clicking, or roaring sound in one or both ears that isn’t present when others are around you, it could be tinnitus. This is a condition characterized by the perception of sound in the absence of an external source, such as people talking or music playing. While tinnitus can affect anyone, about 15-20% of the population experiences it, most commonly in older individuals. In some cases, tinnitus can be indicative of an underlying health condition which is why it’s important to see an audiologist if you begin experiencing the tinnitus symptoms that disrupt your daily life.
What Are the Symptoms of Tinnitus?
The main symptom of tinnitus is the perception of sound that doesn’t come from an external source. It can vary in volume, from a quiet background noise to a loud, disruptive sound. It can also vary in pitch, from low rumbles to high-pitched squeals. Tinnitus can range from being a minor annoyance that is intermittent, to a constant and debilitating bothersome issue.
5 Underlying Health Conditions Related to Tinnitus as a Symptom
There are many underlying health conditions that can cause tinnitus. These include:
- Ear infections can cause hearing loss and tinnitus. Repeated ear infections can affect fluid in the middle ear, resulting in continuous tinnitus.
- Foreign objects that get into the middle ear can often induce tinnitus, vertigo, hearing loss, and a sense of fullness in the ear.
- Earwax buildup can lead to temporary tinnitus, hearing loss, and a sense of fullness in the ear.
- Aged-related hearing loss is another risk factor for developing tinnitus, especially in the elderly population.
- Serious health conditions such as head and neck injuries, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, acoustic neuromas (benign tumor), TMJ disorders, ear bone changes, muscle spasms of the inner ear, Eustachian tube dysfunction, blood vessel disorders, thyroid problems, anemia, autoimmune disorders, and Meniere’s disease (disorder of the inner ear) can lead to the development of tinnitus.
What Are The Risk Factors for Developing Tinnitus?
There are certain risk factors that can increase your risk of developing tinnitus:
- Age. Tinnitus becomes more common with age, especially for those over 60 years old.
- Exposure to loud noise. Prolonged and/or repeated exposure to loud noises, such as concerts or construction work, can damage the tiny hairs in the inner ear and lead to tinnitus.
- Smoking. Research has shown that smoking can increase the risk of developing tinnitus.
- Stress. Studies have shown that stress can worsen the symptoms of tinnitus for those already experiencing it, as well as contribute to the development of tinnitus in those who are not yet affected.
- Certain medications such as antibiotics, antidepressants, cancer medications, diuretics, and aspirin in high dosages can also cause tinnitus.
- Health problems. Chronic conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, arthritis, and cardiovascular problems can increase your risk.
When to Seek Out An Audiologist?
If you experience tinnitus only in one ear, or if the sound is affecting your quality of life, then it’s a good time to book an appointment with one of our audiologists. If the sound starts suddenly, changes in duration, volume, sounds like your heartbeat, or is accompanied by dizziness and hearing loss, then it’s important to get diagnosed right away.
We specialize in diagnosing and treating hearing and balance disorders and can help determine the cause behind your tinnitus as well as, develop a treatment plan and give you resources and strategies for management. Don’t wait to seek help, as it may be indicative of an underlying health condition. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.