What is Tinnitus?

After being around loud noises like fireworks, live music, or gunfire, you might experience ringing in your ears. Ears can begin to ring in reaction to extremely loud and sudden sounds. For a short time after the noise, you might hear a tone that is not really there. In some cases, this buzzing or ringing does not go away. It may persist or stop for brief periods and return. This condition is known as tinnitus.  It can be extremely irritating and distressing.

Who is susceptible to tinnitus?

People of any age or gender can experience this condition, especially after being exposed to loud noise. Studies have shown, however, that the condition is most common among older men. One American study reported that nearly 12% of men between the ages of 65 and 74 experience tinnitus.

What causes tinnitus?

Many ear specialists believe that tinnitus occurs as a result of a problem occurring within the cochlea. Something causes the cochlea to send abnormal signals to the brain. As a result, the brain inputs a substitute noise to compensate for the strange signals. This leads to the persistent or intermittent ringing experienced by people with tinnitus. The condition can be worsened by anything that affects our hearing, including ear infections or excess wax.

There are many different ways that the inner ear can be disturbed, resulting in tinnitus. Examples of causes include:

  • Exposure to Loud Sounds:  Sounds which require ear protection.
  • Meniere’s Disease:  Symptoms of this disease include dizziness, nausea, intermittent hearing loss, and tinnitus.
  • Pregnancy:  Some pregnant women experience an overactive thyroid, which can cause tinnitus.
  • Benign Intracranial Hypertension:  Increased pressure along the jaw joint can lead to a clicking form of tinnitus.
  • Stress and Fatigue:  Any time the body feels stressed, tinnitus may be worsened.
  • Medications: Adverse reactions to antibiotics, aspirin, or other medications can lead to tinnitus.
  • Tumours:  A tumour known as an acoustic neuroma may cause tinnitus by growing on the nerve that supplies hearing signals to the brain. This cause is extremely rare and the ringing is typically only noticed within one ear.

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