We all experience tinnitus at some time or another. Most of the time it occurs when we move from a location that’s very noisy like a concert, a noisy bar or a nightclub to somewhere with much less ambient noise like a quiet street or an empty home. It usually presents as a ringing, humming or buzzing sound, although some hear it as a clicking or hissing. It can be very distracting and prevent those affected from being able to concentrate on work or hobbies. In many cases it can also result in a lack of sleep as tinnitus can sound much louder in quiet spaces like a bedroom late at night. In some cases, it can even seem distractingly loud in environments with a lot of background noise and can prevent those affected from being able to perceive external sounds.
Tinnitus can be heard in one or both ears and while we still aren’t sure exactly what causes it, there are a number of conditions which have a direct relationship with tinnitus. Here we’ll look into some potential causes of tinnitus in both ears and what can be done to remove this irritating and distracting annoyance from your life.
Those who work in noisy environments or with loud machinery are particularly susceptible to tinnitus. This is because regular exposure to loud noise over a prolonged time period is known to damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear which move in relation to the transmission of sound waves which communicates data along the auditory nerves to the brain. When these hairs are bent or broken, however, they can send false electrical impulses to the brain which are registered as sound even though the sound has no cause. How the brain interprets this is the sound that we call tinnitus.
The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the vestibule-cochlear nerve and / or the eighth cranial nerve. These are the nerves that transmit sound information to the brain. They tend to deteriorate as we get older which is the primary cause of age-related hearing loss.
There are also genetic conditions that can result in damage to the auditory nerves such as Meniere’s disease which causes an imbalance of the fluids in the inner ear. As well as experiencing tinnitus, those with Meniere’s disease also experience hearing loss in one or both ears as well as loss of balance and occasional feelings of vertigo or dizziness.
Other genetic conditions can affect the stiffness of the bones in the middle ear. Hereditary conditions such as otosclerosis lead to abnormal bone growth which can result in both tinnitus and hearing loss in both ears.
An excess of earwax buildup or hardened wax deposits are the most common cause of tinnitus in one ear. However, in some cases unclean waxy ear canals can result in tinnitus in both ears. This is why it’s so important to get your ears cleaned regularly by a professional.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure is also known to cause or exacerbate tinnitus which is why so many people in stressful jobs find themselves affected by tinnitus in both ears. As such, if you start to experience tinnitus regularly taking steps to lower your blood pressure can make a huge difference.
These might include:
- Exercising more regularly
- Consuming less caffeine and sodium
- Taking the time to carry out some mindfulness meditation
Temporomandibular joint disorders
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull just in front of the ears. Disorders in this joint have been known to cause tinnitus in one or both ears.
How your audiologist can help
Your audiologist is your first line of defense in the battle against irritating and distracting tinnitus. They can help to ensure that your ears are clean and free of excess wax. They can carry out a series of hearing tests to identify any hearing loss. Around 50% of those who experience tinnitus also experience a degree of hearing loss, whether they’re aware of it or not. The data from these tests can be used to recommend and calibrate a hearing aid which has been known to reduce tinnitus. What’s more, many hearing aid models also emit a frequency that, while barely audible, can help to counteract tinnitus.
If your tinnitus is caused by TMJ disorders, benign tumors or otosclerosis they will also be able to refer you to a surgeon or ENT clinic who may be able to help and advise you further. Don’t let tinnitus keep you from living life to the fullest for a moment longer. Call Coastal Hearing Center today at 843-979-3888.