The exact cause of Tinnitus is not found. However, the closest theory is that the inner ear cells are damaged, bent or broken which leak signals (or electric impulses) to the brain. This may occur due to following conditions:
Common Causes of Tinnitus:
- Age-related hearing loss: Hearing worsens with age in some patients, usually starting around age 60. Hearing loss can cause tinnitus. It is also known as presbycusis. This is one of the main causes of tinnitus.
- Loud noise Exposure: Common sources of noise-related hearing loss are heavy equipment, chain saws and firearms. MP3 players or iPods also can cause noise-related hearing loss if played loudly for long durations. Long-term exposure to loud sound can cause permanent damage. This is a prominent factor along with other causes of tinnitus.
- Earwax: In normal quantities, earwax protects the ear canal by trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria. But when too much of earwax is accumulated; it becomes hard and can cause hearing loss or irritation of the eardrum, which in turn leads to tinnitus. This is one of the major causes of tinnitus.
- Changes in the Ear bone: Stiffening of the bones in the middle ear (otosclerosis) may affect your hearing and cause tinnitus. This condition may be hereditary.
Other Less Common Causes of Tinnitus:
- Meniere's disease: It is a disorder of the inner ear that causes severe dizziness, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness in the ear. This is one of the major factors in causes of tinnitus.
- Temporo-Mandibular Joint Disorders: Problems with the tempero-mandibular joint, the joint on each side of the head in front of the ears, where the lower jawbone meets the skull, can cause tinnitus.
- Head or neck injuries: These can affect the inner ear, hearing nerves or brain function of hearing. Tinnitus is generally one sided.
- Acoustic neuroma: It is a noncancerous tumor on the cranial nerve that runs from the brain to the inner ear. This nerve controls balance and hearing. It is also known as vestibular schwannoma.
Blood Vessel Disorders causing pulsatile tinnitus:
Tinnitus due to blood vessel disorders is called pulsatile tinnitus.
- Head and neck tumors: A tumor that presses on blood vessels in your head or neck (vascular neoplasm) can cause tinnitus and other symptoms. This is one of the striking causes of tinnitus.
- Atherosclerosis: With age and accumulation of cholesterol, major blood vessels near the middle and inner ear lose some of their elasticity. Due to this, the ability of the blood vessels to expand slightly with each heartbeat decreases leading to forceful blood flow. Thus one is able to hear it which is in sync with every heartbeat. It usually occurs in both ears. This is chief factor in causes of tinnitus.
- High blood pressure: Factors that increase blood pressure, such as stress, alcohol and caffeine, can make tinnitus more obvious.
- Turbulent blood flow: Narrowing of the blood vessels in the neck can cause turbulent, irregular blood flow, leading to tinnitus. This is another factor in causes of tinnitus.
- Malformation of capillaries: A condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM), abnormal connections between arteries and veins can cause tinnitus.
Medicines that may cause tinnitus:
- Antibiotics such as erythromycin, vancomycin and neomycin etc.
- Some Cancer medicines, like mechlorethamine and vincristine
- Quinine which is used for malaria
- Some antidepressants may worsen tinnitus
- Aspirin taken in very high doses (usually 12 or more a day) can cause tinnitus.
Tinnitus induced by medicines, usually decreases or stops as soon as medications are stopped.