19 Tinnitus Causes, Revealed

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Tinnitus causes revealed

Hearing loss is one of the most commonly identified causes of tinnitus, but there are many other factors that have been linked as possible causes. During your first visit, your audiologist or tinnitus specialist will perform a hearing test to rule out or establish hearing loss as the underlying cause of your tinnitus. This will help uncover the most useful treatment options for your tinnitus. 

Ear-Related Causes

Besides hearing loss, tinnitus can be due to other ear-related causes such as:

  1. Eustachian tube dysfunction (swelling in the tube connecting the throat and the middle ear results in symptoms such as aural fullness (ear pressure), muffled hearing, and tinnitus)
  2. Meniere’s disease (disorder that causes fluid buildup in the inner ear resulting in hearing loss, vertigo, and tinnitus)
  3. Cholesteatoma (rare, abnormal growth in the middle ear that results in smelly discharge, hearing loss and tinnitus)
  4. Semicircular canal dehiscence (condition where the bones in the inner ear become thin, damage or a hole forms, causing dizziness and tinnitus symptoms)
  5. Acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma, or noncancerous (benign) tumor on the nerves in the inner ear, causing dizziness and tinnitus symptoms)
  6. Ear wax buildup (blockage of the ear canal creates aural pressure which can lead to tinnitus)
  7. Ear infections (swelling or fluid from middle and inner ear infections can cause temporary and chronic tinnitus)
  8. Perforated eardrums (tear or hole in eardrums can cause hearing and balance issues, as well as tinnitus) 
"Treble Health helped me turn down the sound of my tinnitus. Now I can breathe, and get on with my life!"
"Treble Health helped me turn down the sound of my tinnitus. Now I can breathe, and get on with my life!"
– Elisa
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Generally, ear-related causes are easily diagnosed and can be treated with medication, hearing aids, surgery, or sometimes resolve on their own. Treatments for ear-related conditions and diseases are sometimes paired with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to manage the emotional effects of tinnitus.

Dr. Ben Thompson, AuD, explains various root causes of tinnitus, and how they’re treated.

Somatic Causes

Somatic causes of tinnitus refer to physical issues in the head, neck, or mouth that impact the auditory nerve. Somatosensory tinnitus may arise from injuries, orthodontic treatment, sinus infections, and even medical injections.

  1. Impacted wisdom teeth (inflammation around the impacted wisdom teeth can spread to the nearby middle ear) 
  2. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders (proximity of the inner ear and TMJ often result in tinnitus symptoms 
  3. Neck issues (such as muscle tightness or herniated discs can disrupt eustachian tube function, affect nearby nerves, or cause compression of the carotid artery)
  4. Traumatic brain injury (over ½ of patients with traumatic brain injury after a concussion, fracture, or neck injury develop tinnitus symptoms)

Common treatment options such as sound therapy devices, medication, massage therapies, talk therapies, and treating the underlying condition are used for managing tinnitus symptoms.

Vascular Causes

Woman holding her head in pain

Pulsatile or rhythmic tinnitus occurs due to changes in blood flow or blood pressure near the ear. This may be a result of:

  1. Migraines (intense migraine attacks affect cerebral blood flow and can cause tinnitus)
  2. Carotid artery disease (atherosclerosis, or hardening of blood vessels alters blood flow, and often presents itself as pulsatile tinnitus)
  3. High blood pressure (idiopathic intracranial hypertension causes vision changes and headaches, and is often audible to the patient)
  4. Malformations in blood vessels (defects in blood vessels, arteries, and veins affect blood flow which are sometimes audible during a medical examination)

Addressing the underlying vascular condition is usually the treatment for pulsatile tinnitus. Medication, and surgical intervention, are often the most effective and may mean the end of tinnitus symptoms. Long-term care may involve sound therapy, dietary changes, and observation.

Neurological and Psychological Causes 

These neurological and psychological factors have been identified as potential causes and triggers of tinnitus:

  1. Depression and anxiety (though not fully understood, it’s believed that fear of tinnitus symptoms can lead to isolation, where a lack of sounds can trigger increased phantom sounds– the fight and flight system can also go haywire and trigger tinnitus symptoms)
  2. Stress (acute stress has also been identified as a precursor for tinnitus symptoms, and can intensify the cycle of tinnitus episodes)
  3. Palatal Tremor (neurological disorder that causes fast muscle spasms or contractions in the soft palate; can cause clicking or fluttering tinnitus sound)
Woman smiling

Talk therapy, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective ways of managing psychological distress, depression, and anxiety. As for neurological causes of tinnitus, Botox and muscle relaxants may prove useful. Since treating tinnitus often involves a multi-pronged approach, it’s not uncommon for other therapies such as biofeedback, rTMS, acupuncture, yoga, and exercise to be used to manage tinnitus symptoms. 

Treating Tinnitus With Treble Health

At Treble Health, we specialize in helping individuals navigate the complexities of tinnitus. We understand the various causes that can contribute to tinnitus, and our team is here to provide the guidance and support you need.

Take the first step towards tinnitus relief by scheduling a complimentary telehealth consultation with our experienced audiologists. In this 20-minute Zoom session, we will delve into your unique situation, providing answers to your questions and personalized strategies to manage and alleviate your tinnitus symptoms. We are committed to helping you regain control over your auditory world, guiding you towards a life of tranquility and well-being. Don’t wait; schedule your free consultation today and begin your journey to a quieter, more peaceful life.

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