Tinnitus Causes & Treatment Options

Do you experience tinnitus? If so, you are not alone.

Tinnitus affects millions of people all around the world. Commonly, people with tinnitus are told that once it starts occurring, they will need to live with it, but this is not always the case. Although there is no single specific cure for tinnitus. There are a number of effective treatments available to reduce or remove its effects.

Here, we’ll look at the causes of tinnitus and discuss some of the treatment options that are available.

everything you need to know about tinnitus

Tinnitus is the perception of a sound in the absence of an external sound source. It is usually described by our patients as a ringing, buzzing, swooshing, clicking, hissing or pulsating sound heard in either one or both ears.

It is generally a sign that something is affecting the auditory system, which comprises the outer, middle and inner ear, as well as the auditory nerve that transmits sound signals from the inner ear to the auditory cortex in the brain. 

Tinnitus is typically categorised into two main categories; subjective tinnitus and objective tinnitus.

Subjective Tinnitus is the most common form – it is defined by sounds that can only be heard by the affected individual. It is commonly seen in both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss and is caused by an impairment of the auditory pathways.

Objective Tinnitus is a more uncommon form of tinnitus and is also commonly called pulsatile tinnitus. It is defined as a rhythmic pulse in the ear which is typically in sync with your heartbeat. This form of tinnitus may be linked to more severe medical conditions, and if you are experiencing it, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Objective tinnitus (Pulsatile tinnitus) can often be identified by your doctor or hearing specialist by putting a stethoscope against your neck or inserting a small microphone into your ear canal, which enables them to hear it.

Tinnitus can be either temporary or permanent and usually increases or subsides in line with the condition that is causing it to occur. Often, permanent type tinnitus occurs when permanent damage occurs.

Book a FREE Hearing Assessment Today With An Independent Hearing Specialist

Common Causes of Tinnitus

Although tinnitus affects many, it is not actually a medical condition but rather a “symptom” of a condition. Most commonly, it is caused by issues related to the auditory pathway (hearing system), which includes the outer, middle, inner ear, and retro-cochlear pathways.

Below we outline some of the more common conditions that can cause tinnitus.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise induced hearing loss, as the name suggests, occurs as a result of exposure to loud noises. Commonly, this type of hearing loss occurs over time, generally due to exposure to loud machinery or environmental sounds through work related activities. On occasion, noise-induced hearing loss has been known to occur even after exposure to a single sound source, such as a bomb blast or firearm use.

As noise-induced hearing loss commonly affects the higher frequencies of the hearing range, a common symptom accompanied by the loss is tinnitus.

Excessive Ear Wax (Cerumen)

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is your ears’ natural protective tool that cleans and clears the ear canal, removing dirt and preventing bacterial growth. For the most part, this process works as it should, but for some, it is hampered, resulting in a buildup of wax in the canal, which can lead to a blockage.

When the wax builds up in the ear canal, the increased pressure has the ability to cause tinnitus symptoms. This will typically be temporary and disappear once the obstruction has been removed by either a doctor or hearing care professional.

Head/Trauma

An injury or trauma to the head or ears may cause damage to the auditory pathway. Damage can occur to the little bones in the middle ear, impacting the delicate hair cells in the inner ear or damaging the auditory nerve leading to the brain.

Side Effects of Medication

Various medications can also cause or aggravate tinnitus symptoms. The tinnitus generally worsens as the dose of these drugs is increased and will typically subside when the medication is reduced or discontinued.

Some common medications that can cause tinnitus include anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, cancer medications, water pills (diuretics), antimalarial treatments, and antidepressants.

Ear Infection

Ear infections such as otitis media and otitis externa may result in the occurrence of tinnitus symptoms. This is typically due to an infected blockage in the outer or middle ear causing a change in the pressure in the ear.

Otosclerosis

Otosclerosis is a condition caused by abnormal bone growth in the middle ear, which causes the stapes bone to become fixed, resulting in conductive hearing loss.Along with hearing loss, another common symptom of this condition is tinnitus.

Ménière's Disease

Meniere’s disease is a condition that affects the inner ear and is caused by abnormal fluid pressure within the inner ear system. This condition typically causes severe dizziness (vertigo), increased hearing loss and aggravated tinnitus symptoms.

Acoustic Neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a non-malignant (benign) tumour that grows around the auditory nerve that connects your inner ear to the auditory cortex in the brain. As the tumour grows, it constricts the auditory nerve, affecting the transfer of sound from the inner ear to the brain. Tinnitus symptoms are common in people who have acoustic neuromas and will typically be noticeable in the affected ear only.

Aging

Hearing loss is commonly associated with the ageing process. As we age, the delicate hair cells in the inner ear collapse, causing what we commonly refer to as age related hearing loss. Approximately one in six people who experience hearing loss will also experience tinnitus. Commonly, once the hearing loss is treated, whether it be through a medical procedure or the use of hearing aids, the tinnitus symptoms disappear.

Stress

An increase in stress levels can bring on tinnitus symptoms or increase the intensity of the current symptom you may already be experiencing. This will usually be a temporary type of tinnitus and subside or disappear once the stress levels are reduced.

Book a FREE Hearing Assessment Today With An Independent Hearing Specialist

Can COVID-19 Cause Tinnitus?

can covid 19 cause tinnitus

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has recently been linked to several long-term complications. One recent line of research being conducted is investigating whether hearing loss might occur as a result of COVID-19 infection.

Several individuals reported experiencing vertigo and tinnitus while infected. They are reported to say they experienced tinnitus in either one or both, after recovering from COVID-19. However, little evidence has been obtained which supports whether the virus is the cause of these symptoms.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Audiology shows that 7.6 per cent of patients infected with COVID-19 had hearing loss, 14.8 per cent had tinnitus, and 7.2 per cent had vertigo. Additionally, these studies showed the vital need for future research on the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the auditory system.

Furthermore, the new variant of COVID-19 called Delta is more likely to cause earaches, unlike other virus variants. According to experts, this is likely due to Delta producing more upper respiratory symptoms, causing increased pressure on the ears and causing potential ear infections.

Further research is required before we can fully comprehend how the coronavirus affects hearing and balance. Currently, not enough evidence has been obtained to determine how much COVID-19 infection contributes to hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance issues.

Can I Do Anything to Prevent Tinnitus?

Although it is not always avoidable, there are many ways someone can reduce their risk of experiencing tinnitus. In order to do this, you will need to reduce the risk of the conditions that can cause it. Below are a few preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the risk:

  • Hearing Protection. Tinnitus commonly occurs as a result of long-term exposure to loud sounds. People who work in noisy places are at high risk of developing hearing loss and experience aggravated tinnitus symptoms. Any effort that can help lessen your exposure to loud noise, such as moving away from it, turning down the volume, or using earplugs or earmuffs, will help prevent your risk of developing tinnitus or keep it from worsening.
  • Lower the volume. Listening to loud music or watching TV at high volumes can put you at risk of damaging the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. Regular exposure to loud sounds by use of headphones is one of the leading contributors to hearing loss in today’s younger generation.
  • Limit your alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine consumption. According to healthcare providers, these substances can impair blood flow and increase the risk of tinnitus, especially when consumed excessively.
  • Take care of your cardiovascular health. Tinnitus related to cardiovascular issues such as blood pressure, diabetes, and blood vessel disorders can often be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle (exercising regularly, eating well, etc.). If you are experiencing cardiovascular issues such as blood pressure issues or blood pressure disorders, you should speak with your doctor immediately. 
  • Stress Management. Increased stress levels are a significant contributor to tinnitus and are often associated with aggravation of the symptoms. Reducing your stress levels is an important part of the tinnitus management process and can be done through a range of counselling options.
  • Avoid ototoxic medications. There are a number of medications that are deemed ototoxic which have the ability to affect the auditory system and also aggravate tinnitus symptoms. It is important to consult with your doctor before making any decisions about your medication, but to ensure you are properly informed, you should ask them what the potential side effects are prior to taking them.

Book a FREE Hearing Assessment Today With An Independent Hearing Specialist

Available Treatment for Tinnitus

Treatment of tinnitus starts with determining the cause. The first step is to have a full comprehensive hearing test with a hearing professional who will conduct a thorough case history and perform a hearing assessment to determine the likely source of the tinnitus symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that can be taken to cure tinnitus directly. If the underlying medical issue causing the tinnitus can be discovered and treated, the overall effect of the tinnitus can usually be reduced or corrected with treatment. For example, if the tinnitus is caused as a result of excessive ear wax, then once it is removed, the tinnitus should disappear. For some, the tinnitus may be permanent, and there are a number of treatment options available to assist with managing the symptoms.

Below we have listed some common treatments for tinnitus:

Hearing Aids

Tinnitus can often be a direct symptom of hearing loss. When the hearing loss is treated through the use of hearing aids, the tinnitus symptoms are often reduced or removed. Typically, in the early stages, the tinnitus is not noticeable while the user is wearing the hearing aids, and over longer periods of time with regular hearing aid use, it can disappear completely.

Earwax Removal

If the tinnitus symptoms are a direct result of wax occlusion, then by reducing or removing the wax, the tinnitus symptoms can be removed. If considering wax removal, it is recommended that you seek treatment from your doctor or hearing care professional first to determine the best option for removal. If the procedure is not done correctly, it could further damage the auditory pathway.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapies can be used in order to divert the patient’s attention away from their tinnitus symptoms. They are designed to replace the sounds of tinnitus with another sound that may be more tolerable to the individual. This treatment is commonly used to assist patients in falling asleep, often by playing soft nature sounds in order to divert the individual’s attention away from the tinnitus, allowing them to fall asleep.

Many hearing aids have built in tinnitus management programs and sound generators that can be used as part of the tinnitus management program.

Behavioral Therapy

This type of therapy primarily focuses on your responses to tinnitus. Behavioural therapy may be beneficial in minimising stress and anxiety associated with tinnitus, as well as improving your general quality of life. Behavioural treatment includes a variety of techniques, such as:

Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) is another type of behavioural therapy that can assist in reprogramming the way your brain responds to tinnitus. This can assist you in tuning out and being less aware of the sounds. Tinnitus retraining therapy combines counselling, sound therapy, and the use of a noise-generating device such as a hearing aid. However, this therapy will only be effective if you invest sufficient time and effort.

Independent Hearing specialises in tinnitus management therapy. We offer all forms of tinnitus and hearing rehabilitation and treatment options. Contact us today at 08 8004 0077!

Final Thoughts

As discussed in today’s blog, there are a number of different causes and treatment options available to assist you with your tinnitus.

Like always, the first step is to seek advice. If you or someone you know is experiencing tinnitus symptoms, then we recommend you seek advice from a qualified hearing care professional.

Independent Hearing specialises in providing affordable hearing care and tinnitus treatment options. We offer a range of FREE consultation appointments! Give us a call today on 08 8004 0077!

Luke Argent
Luke is a Co-founder/Director and Senior Audiometrist at Independent Hearing and graduated with a Diploma of Audiometry in 2018. He holds a Qualified Practitioner (QP) number with the Federal Government’s Hearing Services Program. Luke has been involved with the hearing industry since 2015 when he co-founded the business ‘Eyre Hearing’. Due to an expansion of the business in 2020 it was rebranded to its current name ‘Independent Hearing’.

Related blogs

October 22, 2021

Different Types Of Hearing Tests

Hearing is more than just being able to hear sounds. It's also about understanding speech and how it relates to your ability to communicate. It is one of the most important senses we possess. Yet, despite how crucial it is,…
October 4, 2021

Tinnitus Causes & Treatment Options

Do you experience tinnitus? If so, you are not alone. Tinnitus affects millions of people all around the world. Commonly, people with tinnitus are told that once it starts occurring, they will need to live with it, but this is…
September 28, 2021

Common Tinnitus Symptoms and How to Deal with Them

Most people who experience tinnitus will notice a common symptom such as buzzing or ringing in the ears. For others, it takes other forms, such as whistling, hissing, heartbeat, music, and many other noises. These symptoms can range from mild…

Request a FREE Hearing Test

Book a FREE Hearing Test today. * fields are required.