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Tinnitus – (noise or ringing in the ears) is a problem affecting millions of people that originates in the outer ear, middle ear, inner ear or the brain. This condition is very frustrating to those afflicted because it manifests itself in a variety of ways, making it difficult to link an exact cause.

Common Causes

The possible sources and characteristics of tinnitus are indicated by the Mayo Clinic. These sources are categorized:

Inner Ear Cell Damage - Is one of the most common causes of tinnitus. There are approximately 30,000 tiny hair cells in the inner ear (cochlea nerve). These inner ear hair cells move from sound wave activity. The movement of these hair cells causes a transmission of an electrical signal from the auditory nerve to your brain. Sound is processed and hearing takes place. If these inner ear hair cells are broken or damaged they can send random electrical impulses to your brain causing tinnitus.

Age Related Loss - Presbycusis is another term for age related hearing loss. Around age 60 hearing worsens. This type of hearing loss can cause tinnitus.

Exposure to Loud Noise - Loud noises Man Listening to Loud Noisefrom heavy machinery, construction equipment, chain saws and firearms are common causes of hearing loss and can result in tinnitus. iPods or MP3 players, if played loudly for long periods of time can cause tinnitus. Long term exposure to loud noises can cause permanent damage. Attending a concert can produce short term tinnitus which usually subsides.

Ear Wax Blockage - Cerumen (wax) protects your ear canal by collecting dirt and debris,Ear canal blockage slowing the growth of bacteria. An ear canal completely blocked by wax causes hearing loss and can cause tinnitus.

Ear Bone Changes - Otosclerosis is a condition causing a calcification or stiffening of the bones in your middle ear. It can affect your hearing and cause tinnitus. Otosclerosis is caused by abnormal bone growth and is hereditary.

Less Common Causes of Tinnitus

Ménière's Disease - Is an inner ear disorder characterized by a combination of hearing loss, vertigo and tinnitus.

Stress/Depression - Tinnitus is a common symptom of stress and depression. Tinnitus is often aggravated by these conditions.

TMJ Disorders - Temperomandibular jointIllustration of TMJ disorder disorder which affects the joint on each side of your head in front of your ears can cause tinnitus.

Head or Neck Injuries - A neurological disorder can affect the inner ear, hearing nerves or brain function. These injuries most commonly cause tinnitus in only one ear.

Acoustic Neuroma - A non cancerous (benign) tumor also called vestibular schwannoma, that develops on the cranial nerve that runs from your brain to your inner ear. This type of tumor will significantly affect balance and hearing. Tinnitus is normally evidenced in one ear.

Radiation Therapy - Radiation treatment to the head or neck can cause tinnitus

Malformation of Capillaries - The connections between veins and arteries can sometimes be malformed causing a condition called AVM - Arteriovenous Malformation. This condition can cause tinnitus generally noticed in only one ear.

Middle Ear Myoclonus - A very rare condition whereby tinnitus is objective or heard by the patient as well as the practitioner. It is caused by repetitive contractions of the middle ear muscles; the stapedius and tensor tympani. In this instance tinnitus can sound like buzzing, rumbling or crackling. Although there are only a few cases documented (Golz,Fradis,Netze,Ridder,Westerman and Joachims) in the United States, it can generally be corrected with a surgical procedure. As indicated by the aforementioned, relief in some cases comes instantly.

Other Factors

Medications - Many medications cause or worsen tinnitus. Photograph of prescription medications Typically, the higher the dose, the more prominent the effects. Some known medications that cause or worsen tinnitus are:


Cancer Medications - Treatment/Therapy

Diuretics – Fluid reduction medications "Water pills"

Quinine - Treatment of Malaria or Leg Cramps

Chlorqine - Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Prevention of Malaria

Aspirin - In very high doses

Antidepressants - MAOI, Tricyclic and SSRI

Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Medications (NSAIDS) - Advil, Aleve, Anaprox, Clinoril, Feldene, Indocin, Lodine, Motrin, Nalfon, Naprosyn, Nuprin, Poradol, Voltarin are examples of this type of medication.

Birth Control Pills - Hormone therapy.

Blood Pressure Medications - The treatment of high blood pressure

Caffeine – Can make tinnitus worse

Factors that Increase the Risk of Tinnitus

Age - 60 and over

Gender - Males are more likely to develop tinnitus

Woman Smoking


Alcohol - Moderate to high levels of use

Heart / Vascular Disorders - High or low blood pressure, Hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), Anemia, Vascular tumor, Aneurysm, or Turbulent blood flow

Loud Noise Exposure

Fatigue / depressed man



Sleep Problems



Tinnitus Sounds and What They Mean

Clicking - Contractions of the tensor tympani muscle in the middle ear

Buzzing - Contractions of the stapedius muscle

Rushing / Humming - Usually vascular in nature

Hearbeat - Hearing your hearbeat is an indication of blood vessel problems; high blood presure, aneurysm, tumor, blockage of the ear canal or eustachian tube

Low Pitched Ringing - Can be a sign of Menier's Disease

Continuous High Pitched Ringing - Permanent long-term noise exposure, age related hearing loss, medication or acoustic neuroma (benign tumor)

Tinnitus Therapy

Most Signia hearing aids (a.k.a. Siemens or Signia Siemens) models have tinnitus therapy included in the technology. To see the Signia hearing aid models, click on this link.

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