The Connection Between Allergies And Tinnitus

woman outdoors with allergies that cause tinnitus

To understand the link between allergies and tinnitus, you first must understand what histamines are. Seasonal and environmental allergies trigger the body to release histamines, which are chemicals that try to remove allergens from your body. Histamines are natural chemicals in the body that attack anything that your body views as an allergen.

While they are supposed to be helpful for the body, they can sometimes cause symptoms such as increased blood flow, inflammation, and mucus secretion. This often leads to the familiar allergy symptoms of congestion, sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes, ears, or throat. Depending on the way that the body reacts to these allergens, symptoms can range from mild to extreme. 

Histamines can indirectly lead to tinnitus. While you may be surprised by this, the good news is that the symptoms are typically temporary. Read on for our analysis of how allergies can cause tinnitus or worsen tinnitus. 

Dr. Ben dives in to the relationship between tinnitus and allergies.

How Are Allergies Related To Tinnitus?

We know that weather changes can affect tinnitus, and allergies often come with seasonal weather changes. Around 3/5 of those who have nasal allergies also have ear-related allergy symptoms, so it can definitely be a common part of allergies. Symptoms can be in the outer, middle, or inner ear, and can present themselves as itchy or swollen ears. 

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To know how allergies affect tinnitus, we will discuss the Eustachian tubes. The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear area behind the eardrum to the back of the throat. Their default position is closed, but they open and close to ventilate the middle ear with fresh air. This important process equalizes the pressure in the middle with the pressure of the atmosphere and also helps to clear any fluid that the cells in the middle ear naturally produce. 

Dysfunction happens when the Eustachian tubes become blocked due to an infection, cold, or allergies. Allergies that cause congestion and irritation in the nose, sinuses, and throat can lead to inflammation around the Eustachian tubes. When there is inflammation in the tubes or the muscles that help them to open, the air in the middle air is not refreshed. This can lead to a buildup of negative pressure in the middle ear, and occasionally fluid which can make the ear feel clogged or blocked. 

Sound cannot travel through this blocked middle ear easily and may be dampened, meaning you can have diminished hearing. One way that this can affect tinnitus is by causing reduced stimulation to the ear from the diminished sound flowing through it. Changes in stimulation can cause tinnitus, but these changes are usually temporary and should resolve when allergies are controlled.

Allergies can also cause sinus infections and ear infections to occur. They don’t directly cause them, but can lay the groundwork for them to grow, increasing the risk of tinnitus. Unfortunately, allergies can worsen tinnitus in a number of ways and also cause new, but likely temporary, tinnitus. 

Allergies And Inner Ear Disease 

Research has found that a rare disease of the inner ear can also be linked with allergies. Endolymphatic hydrops, commonly called Meniere’s disease, is a disease of the inner ear that affects less than 1% of the population. Symptoms include fluctuating hearing loss, fullness in the ear, dizziness or vertigo, and tinnitus. 

It has been found that those who had been diagnosed with suspected Meniere’s disease have a greater occurrence of allergies than the general population does. A study of 734 Meniere’s patients showed that 59% had airborne allergies and 40% had food allergies. Those without Meniere’s were at 42% with airborne allergies and 25% with food allergies. That makes a difference of 17% for airborne allergies and 15% for food allergies. 

This is a significant variation between the two populations. It suggests that allergies that affect the inner ear can play a role in the production of Meniere’s disease symptoms. Allergies and tinnitus are linked in this manner. 

The study also found that, interestingly, those who were visiting the ear clinic for other reasons were less likely to have allergies as compared to those with Meniere’s disease. This suggests the link between allergies and Meniere’s is stronger than the link between allergies and other ear issues, although more research needs to be done to confirm this. 

Additionally, a formal literature review found no clear evidence of how allergies and Meniere’s disease and its symptoms are related. Meniere’s disease has been studied and written about for over 150 years, but there are still many questions about it. The literature review found an association between allergies and Meniere’s, although more research needs to be done to be conclusive due to potential outside factors that may be throwing off the studies. It says that even though results are as of yet inconclusive, allergy treatment is a low risk and should be considered for Meniere’s patients who have allergies.

Can Allergies Cause Tinnitus?

Allergies can definitely cause new tinnitus or exacerbate a person’s existing tinnitus. However, this is usually temporary and will resolve within a few days. There are many treatments for allergies, including over-the-counter antihistamines and home remedies like keeping on top of dust, preventing mold, and using filters. If your symptoms do not resolve within a few days, it is recommended to see a physician for evaluation. Doctors can help with stronger treatments or determine if something else is causing your symptoms.

Persistent symptoms can be related to inner ear disease and may worsen if not resolved within a reasonable time frame. Have any persistent symptoms evaluated by a physician. If you end up having middle ear or Eustachian dysfunction, leaving it unresolved can lead to worsening ear symptoms. Allergies and tinnitus do have a link between them in numerous ways. If you have more questions about this or your tinnitus, feel free to contact our team of audiologists at Treble Health.

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