Five Factors That Cause Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a condition that affects about 10 to 15 percent of the population worldwide which amounts to about 280 million people. It has proven to be a debilitating condition for about 1 to 2 percent of tinnitus patients while the number of elderly individuals suffering from tinnitus has risen at an alarming rate.

Tinnitus sound can either be sudden or gradual. The frequency at which an individual might begin hearing a ringing in their ears could vary: it could be intermittent, constant, or fluctuating. Sometimes, a person might begin to perceive a ringing or buzzing sound in either the right or the left ear, or both ears, and at other times it could be within the head. The tinnitus sound can be loud or soft and the pitch could also vary.

Some of the major factors that cause tinnitus include:

Hearing loss due to noise trauma:

Prolonged exposure to noise increases the probability of developing tinnitus. Long-term exposure to sounds below 80 decibels should not affect your hearing. Repeated long-exposure to sounds above 80 dB can lead to permanent damage.

For example:

80 dB = 5 Hours and 30 mins will cause temporary hearing loss

85 dB = 1 Hour 45 mins will cause temporary hearing loss

95 dB = 10 mins will cause temporary hearing loss

100 dB = 3.5 mins will cause temporary hearing loss

Ototoxic drugs:

There are certain over-the-counter drugs that have proven to be the cause of tinnitus especially in younger adults. Such ototoxic formulae include aspirin, ibuprofen and even certain antibiotics. Long-term use of these common medications can lead to temporary hearing impairment or low-grade tinnitus. More severely and less commonly, certain chemotherapy methods have led to tinnitus. They include cisplatin and carboplatin because they reduce the immunity of the body. Angiotension Receptor Blockers (ARBs) such as lisinopril and other ACE inhibitors have common side-effects such as tinnitus.

Auditory nerve abnormalities:

Due to damage to hair cells in the inner ear, the signals sent from the outer ear to the neurons in the brain become distorted and overtime create auditory deprivation. This coupled with altered neuronal activity are the two major causes for structural tinnitus. This could include discharge, hyper-neuronal activity, and increases in asynchrony.

High blood pressure and chronic stress:

Research shows that chronic stress puts people at a higher risk of contracting tinnitus. Chronic stress goes hand-in-hand with high blood pressure and hence in addition to all the co-morbidities that accompany high blood pressure, individuals who have experienced stress and continue to be under stress are likely to develop tinnitus symptoms, and anxiety about the condition. Stress management strategies must be included in the treatment plan especially for individuals who have a mild tinnitus but report a high stress load.

Tinnitus and emotional distress are two ends of a vicious cycle. Experiencing sound in the absence of an external stimulus can be emotionally streneous which can make the sounds seem much worse and thus ther person is caught in a cycle of worsening tinnitus and increasing distress.

Other psychological challenges associated with tinnitus include hypochondria, cognitive impairment, anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.

Vitamin deficiency

Low levels of Vitamin B12 can lead to a ringing sensation in the ears. This vitamin helps create and bolster a protective cover around the nerves of the ear. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 gravely impacts the functioning of these nerves. Eating foods rich in B vitamins can help to an extent, however, once tinnitus symptoms start manifesting it is better to opt for supplements that would give the necessary boost of vitamins.