Can MS Cause Tinnitus? Exploring the Link Between Multiple Sclerosis, Tinnitus, And Hearing Loss

multiple sclerosis diagram

Dealing with hearing loss can be difficult, but this situation may be even more complicated for individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). This comprehensive article explores the relationship between multiple sclerosis, tinnitus, and hearing loss. On top of this, we will also analyze the risk factors, associated symptoms, and treatment options available to help.

What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune condition that undermines the central nervous system by attacking the protective coating of nerve cells, known as the myelin sheath. This damage disrupts communication between the brain and body, resulting in many challenging  symptoms, including exhaustion, mobility issues, impaired vision, and coordination difficulties. Additionally, this condition can also trigger tinnitus, as well as other auditory issues.

Can MS Cause Hearing Loss?

Multiple sclerosis may also negatively impact the auditory system. According to a systematic review published in the International Archives of Otorhinolaryngology, as much as 77% of those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis exhibit otolaryngologic symptoms such as hearing loss. 

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Individuals living with MS can experience gradual or sudden changes to their hearing. The root cause of tinnitus in these patients remains unclear, although research suggests it might be linked to nerve injury and alterations within the brain when processing sound waves. Hearing loss may also occur from lesions in the brainstem or spine that disrupt signals between the ears and brain. 

Unexpectedly, multiple sclerosis can also result in sudden hearing loss in one or both ears due to relapse or inflammation within the middle or inner ear. Furthermore, some scientists think sudden changes to hearing might be a precursor to MS exacerbations — making this an important warning sign for those living with the condition.

What Are The Risk Factors For Hearing Problems In MS Patients?

Several factors can increase the risk of hearing problems in individuals with MS, which include the following:

Exposure to Loud Noise

Prolonged exposure to loud music or noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear, which can lead to sudden or gradual hearing loss.

Age-Related Hearing Loss

As people age, the ear structures can deteriorate, gradually leading to hearing loss over time.

Excessive Ear Wax And Ear Infections

A buildup of earwax can block the ear canal and lead to temporary hearing loss. In addition, MS can weaken the immune system, making it difficult for individuals to prevent infections. Infections in the ear can cause inflammation and damage to the ear structures, leading to hearing loss. Untreated ear infections can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, ear fullness, and ear pain, so it is important to recognize these symptoms and seek prompt treatment.


Some evidence suggests that an increase in body temperature can negatively affect how the nerves in our body relay messages. Thus, the impact on our nervous system can worsen a person’s symptoms. 

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What Are The Symptoms Of Hearing Problems In MS?

Typical symptoms include:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Difficulty hearing in noisy environments
  • Trouble understanding spoken language
  • Sensitivity to loud sounds
  • Reduced hearing in one or both ears

Diagnosis Of Hearing Problems Related To MS

If experiencing hearing issues, discuss them with your primary care doctor or an otolaryngologist, also known as an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist, as soon as possible. They will evaluate you and likely recommend you obtain further audiological testing. From there, an audiologist will perform various tests to assess your hearing sensitivity.

Tinnitus Treatment Options in Individuals with MS

To alleviate the effects of tinnitus in individuals with multiple sclerosis, healthcare professionals may suggest using sound therapy to reduce the perception of tinnitus in one’s ears. Patients can accomplish this through hearing devices or ear-level sound generators. In addition, Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), counseling, and relaxation techniques are also seen as effective means of tinnitus treatment.

Symptom Management

Combatting other MS symptoms like exhaustion, lack of balance, and impaired vision can be integral in successfully managing hearing issues. Therefore, exercise, physical therapy, and occupational therapy are essential in ensuring individuals remain mentally and physically fit while managing their condition.

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