Can Tinnitus Affect The Eyes?

Click the button below for personalized recommendations from a Doctor of Audiology.
Man getting an eye exam

If you’re experiencing problems with your vision as well as tinnitus symptoms, such as a ringing in your ears, you’re not alone. Tinnitus symptoms may be related to health conditions that are seemingly unrelated to your ears. Although current research has yet to discover a direct link between tinnitus and vision, certain eye diseases can potentially lead to tinnitus symptoms. 

What Is Tinnitus?

If you’ve ever noticed an unexplained ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping, or whooshing in your ear, you’ve experienced tinnitus. Most people notice tinnitus sounds at some point in their life, but for about 20% of the population, it is a persistent problem that impacts their quality of life.

"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
– Steve D.
Take the Tinnitus Quiz to learn which Treble Health solution is right for you. Join Steve and thousands more who have found lasting tinnitus relief.

Tinnitus is a symptom of other health conditions like hearing loss, head injury, infection, or illness. In some cases, there is no clear explanation, and for a few people, tinnitus may be related to an eye problem.

How Can Tinnitus Affect Your Eyes?

The ear and the eye are distinct and separate organs. Under most circumstances impacting one does not directly affect the other. However, if you’re experiencing blurred vision, hearing loss, or other associated symptoms, there could be a link. There are quite a few medical conditions that affect both the ear and the eye. To learn about these conditions such as glaucoma, dry eye disease, macular degeneration and more may help us to gain a better understanding of how the ear and eye may be affected by one another.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss, blurred vision, pain and even blindness. The most common type is primary open angle glaucoma. This chronic progressive condition damages the optic nerve in the back of your eye. While tinnitus is not a primary symptom, glaucoma patients are more likely to have inner ear and tinnitus symptoms than those without.

A recent study showed that glaucoma patients had an 85% increased incidence of tinnitus when compared to people without glaucoma. This study indicates that a link between chronic tinnitus and glaucoma continues even after considering other medical factors. Research suggests that there could be a vascular problem involving decreased blood flow to the ear, eventually leading to tinnitus, in those with glaucoma. Another study revealed that the relationship of Glaucoma and ringing in the ears might be related to to the level of oxidative stress within the body in due to low levels of Nitric Oxide. More research is still needed, but these conditions may have a shared cause.

Vestibular Disorders

Woman experiencing vertigo

Certain diseases of the inner ear, called vestibular disorders, affect your sense of balance, and may also cause hearing loss and tinnitus. Although this may seem like an ear condition, it is part of a complex system that involves vision.

Your body uses a combination of visual input, proprioceptive cues (information perceived through the muscles and joints to tell us where we are in space), and the vestibular systems in your inner ear to maintain balance. The vestibular system senses motion and equilibrium. When the vestibular system is dysregulated, you may feel dizzy or off-balance. This is can be the result of a vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) dysfunction. 

People with vestibular disorders due to lack of visual input or blurred vision may also have other inner ear problems such as hearing loss and tinnitus symptoms. 

One vestibular disease that is known to affect both vision and hearing is Meniere’s disease. This condition primarily affects the ear and causes severe vertigo, but in some cases, it can cause involuntary movement of the eyes. Visual symptoms include blurred vision, double vision, and difficulty focusing on objects. For some people, hearing aids may provide relief as a form of treatment as part of a multi-disciplinary approach involving medical intervention with an otolaryngologist and often a physical therapist who specializes in vestibular therapy as well to help manage symptoms as well.

Dry Eye Disease

It may come as a surprise, but there is a relationship between tinnitus and dry eye diseases! A study showed that while tinnitus is linked to dry eye, bilateral hearing loss is not. In fact, hearing loss in both ears may indicate a lower risk of experiencing dry eye. Findings suggest that hypersensitivity may be related to dry eye disease, which might be the link between dry eye and tinnitus.

It’s important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the way these conditions are related. Still, these findings suggest that there may be some shared underlying factors and addressing them together may make treatment more effective.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease that affects the central part of the retina, which is responsible for fine, detailed vision. It may lead to loss of central vision, blurry vision, and ultimately, blindness. While the disease primarily affects your ability to see clearly, a study into age-related macular degeneration suggests that there may be a physical component linking macular degeneration and tinnitus.

Visual Snow Syndrome

Visual snow syndrome is a condition in which you see tiny flickering dots across your entire field of vision, much like the appearance of TV static. Although visual snow syndrome and tinnitus seem unrelated, they are both phantom perception disorders – that is, seeing and hearing things without any external source. They are both impacted by the way your brain processes sensory input. 

According to a study, about 63% of people with visual snow syndrome noticed continuous ringing in both ears. The high correlation between visual snow syndrome and tinnitus suggests there may be a physical link.

Migraines

Migraines are intense headaches characterized by severe throbbing pain on one side of the head along with other symptoms like sensitivity to light, eye pain, blurry vision, temporary vision loss, and visual auras. Many people who experience a migraine also have vision changes with tinnitus. During a migraine episode, sensory processing is hypersensitive. This can make tinnitus more noticeable or even debilitating.

According to a study, migraines and tinnitus may share a root cause. Problems with blood flow to the brain can worsen both tinnitus and migraines, but the direct relationship is still unclear. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Although very common, diabetes is a complex medical condition. It’s primarily known for its impact on your blood sugar, but it can potentially lead to high blood pressure, nerve damage, eye problems – and yes, tinnitus. In fact, diabetes is one of the main risk factors of hearing loss and tinnitus if left untreated.

Diabetes has a number of complications that involve the eyes and ears. Diabetic retinopathy affects the blood vessels in the retina of the eye and can lead to blurred vision or vision loss. Diabetes-related high blood pressure is known to damage the fragile tissues in your inner ear, which in turn often leads to tinnitus and sometimes hearing loss. There are many more complications that can arise from diabetes, and proper management can protect your overall health.

High Blood Pressure

Person getting their blood pressure taken

If you’re experiencing tinnitus along with blurred vision and headaches or seizures, speak with your doctor. This may indicate that your tinnitus symptoms are caused by high blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure can be dangerous to your health and cause long-term health problems. Be aware that pulsatile tinnitus is typically also associated with blood pressure problems. Speak to your doctor if your tinnitus seems to be synchronized to your heartbeat.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience sudden onset tinnitus and blurred vision, as this may be a sign of a stroke

Other Shared Symptoms

Vision changes and bothersome tinnitus can both cause significant emotional distress. When combined, they can lead to feelings of frustration, isolation, and helplessness. The constant ringing in your ears can be annoying, distracting, and even disrupt your sleep. Vision changes can impact your ability to continue with your daily activities, which often leads to feelings of depression or anxiety. What’s more, anxiety itself can cause blurred vision, increased sensitivity to light and sound, or even chronic pain.

High blood pressure, regardless of the cause, may trigger tinnitus or changes in vision. Under a doctor’s supervision, managing high blood pressure can reduce the risk of these complications.

Treating Eye And Ear Conditions Together

Thankfully, medical conditions that affect vision and hearing have some shared treatments. For example, sound therapy can treat tinnitus and help reduce anxiety. This in turn can improve your sleep, and good sleep hygiene is essential to eye health. Hearing aids can help resolve inner ear symptoms and vestibular disorders while tuning out tinnitus. Other effective treatments include tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and lifestyle changes like eating well, getting enough rest, and staying physically active. 

Person speaking with a doctor

Despite many eye diseases that have tinnitus as a symptom, there is no known information about whether tinnitus can directly affect your eyes. Still, addressing eye problems may help discover the root cause of tinnitus and help protect both your hearing and vision. If you have a family history of eye problems, speak to your doctor about how it may impact your hearing. Contact the audiologists at Treble Health to learn more about your tinnitus treatment options. 

Next Step: Take The Tinnitus Quiz

More To Explore

TOP POSTS

Treble Health Audiologists Are
Professional Members Of The

CONNECT WITH TREBLE

Tinnitus Web Class
THIS Wednesday only

A special online event to help you find relief from tinnitus.

Class starts Weds at 8 p.m. EST.

What’s the Root Cause of my Tinnitus?

Understanding the Cause is the KEY to Treatment
Book a Free Consultation to Learn Why: