What Causes Tinnitus?
The Ear is not responsible for causing Tinnitus AKA Ears Ringing, instead the cause of Tinnitus is found in the brain. The brain is made up of a huge number of active nerves areas which all have different roles, sound information is processed by a very specific brain area known as the auditory cortex. The auditory cortex is divided into areas that are responsible for processing different pitches in a similar way in which keys would be arranged on a piano. Anything that causes us to lose our hearing has the effect of disrupting the auditory cortex, this could be caused by medications (listed below), loud noises or just the natural aging process. Due to this disruption, there is a reduction in activity of the auditory cortex affected by hearing loss and the nerves that make up the area can start to fire spontaneously, this is called neural synchronization or in other words, if the ear no longer talks to the auditory center then the nerve cells in the auditory center begins to chatter in an unregulated and overactive way. It’s this abnormal over activity that causes us to perceive Tinnitus or Ear Ringing signal. Overtime, this abnormal activity may become permanent if not treated.
Other Factors that Causes Tinnitus
Another major cause of Tinnitus is damage of the tiny delicate inner ear hairs which may be bent or broken by high pressure of sound waves which causes them “leak” random electrical impulses to your brain, causing tinnitus.
Other causes of Tinnitus are:
- Age – The natural aging process can cause deterioration of the cochlea or other parts of the ear.
- Earwax blockage – When too much earwax accumulates, it becomes too hard to wash away naturally, causing hearing loss, ear infection or irritation of the eardrum, which can cause tinnitus.
- Otosclerosis disease – Stiffening of the bones in your middle ear (otosclerosis, caused by abnormal bone growth, tends to run in families) may affect your hearing and cause tinnitus.
- Loud noise. Loud noises such as those from heavy equipment and Portable music devices, such as MP3 players or iPods, if played loudly for long periods are common causes of Tinnitus.
- Meniere’s disease– an inner ear disorder that may be caused by abnormal inner ear fluid pressure leading to tinnitus.
- Atherosclerosis –With age and buildup of cholesterol and other deposits, major blood vessels close to your middle and inner ear lose some of their elasticity, the ability to flex or expand slightly with each heartbeat. That causes blood flow to become more forceful, making it easier for your ear to detect the beats. You can generally hear this type of tinnitus in both ears.
- High blood pressure- Hypertension and factors that increase blood pressure, such as stress, alcohol and caffeine, can cause tinnitus to be more noticeable.
- Malformation of capillaries- A condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM), abnormal connections between arteries and veins, can result in tinnitus. This type of tinnitus generally occurs in only one ear.
- Turbulent blood flow- Narrowing or kinking in a neck artery (carotid artery) or vein in your neck (jugular vein) can cause turbulent, irregular blood flow, causing to tinnitus.
- Neck or jawInduries– Head or neck trauma can affect the inner ear, hearing nerves or brain function linked to hearing. Such injuries generally cause tinnitus in only one ear. Also temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome,the joint on each side of your head in front of your ears, where your lower jawbone meets your skull, can cause tinnitus. Head and neck tumors which is a tumor that presses on blood vessels in your head or neck (vascular neoplasm) can cause tinnitus and other symptoms.
- Acoustic neuroma- This noncancerous (benign) tumor develops on the cranial nerve that runs from your brain to your inner ear and controls balance and hearing. Also called vestibular schwannoma, this condition generally causes tinnitus in only one ear.
Medications that can also worsen or cause tinnitus
- Water pills (diuretics), such as ethacrynic acid, bumetanide or furosemid
- Quinine medications used for malaria or other health conditions
- Certain antidepressants may worsen tinnitus
- Aspirin taken in uncommonly high doses (usually 12 or more a day)
- Antibiotics, including erythromycin, vancomycin and neomycin polymyxin B
- Cancer medications, including mechlorethamine and vincristine
Tinnitus can worsen in some people if they drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, drink caffeinated beverages, or eat certain foods. For reasons not yet entirely clear to researchers, stress and fatigue seem to worsen tinnitus.