Hearing problems

A look at why people develop tinnitus

Let’s start with a common question that we receive quite a lot since lock-down:  “Can tinnitus be the result of having Covid-19?”  Yes, more and more people complain of tinnitus after they had Covid-19.  Some people even reported a hearing loss in either one or both ears.  But even before Covid-19, there were millions of people around the world that suffered from tinnitus.   

There are a few different things that can induce temporary or permanent tinnitus in people; before we dive into the causes of this condition, we need to first understand what tinnitus is.

What is tinnitus? 

Tinnitus is commonly known as a ‘ringing in the ears’, though there are several other sounds that people hear, including buzzing, humming, hissing or roaring sounds.

Tinnitus can be both a condition in itself, but it can also be a symptom of a more serious underlying ailment.  In most cases, people that suffer from tinnitus, also (unknowingly)  suffer from a hearing loss. Did you know that hearing loss is one of the main causes of tinnitus?  Some people may however believe that tinnitus is the cause of hearing loss, but it is mostly the other way around.  Some people may also experience brief or temporary moments of tinnitus, which may be quite normal.

There are also several levels to the intensity of which people experience this internal noise; while some may find it pesky and occasionally annoying, others experience intense episodes of tinnitus that causes them to have trouble concentrating or sleeping. In some cases, this noise drives people to psychological distress and depression, but for most people, learning to live with the condition provides enough of a foundation to ignore and eventually tune out the tinnitus.

 There are a few things that can cause this condition, let’s take a look at them.

What causes tinnitus?

In most cases of tinnitus, damage to the cochlea (the inner ear) is the cause of the internal ringing, humming, or hissing of the ear.  That is the hearing loss we mentioned above. There are a few things that can either damage the cochlea or cause a different kind of tinnitus in people:

  • An internal noise, whether a result of a damaged inner ear or not, can possibly be a symptom of a serious underlying condition, such as an acoustic neuroma, Meniere’s disease, high blood pressure, anaemia, diabetes, or another serious condition that you may not be aware of. (But remember it can also just be the cause of hearing loss!)  We recommend that you see your GP if you continually or more than occasionally hear any of the sounds associated with tinnitus.
  • Blockages of the ear that can occur as a result of wax build-up or an ear infection;
  • The natural aging process, in which case the cochlea or other parts of the ear deteriorate.
  • Stress, trauma, or injuries to the neck or jaw.
  • Cumulative or excessive exposure to loud noise.
  • Certain drugs, such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, and quinine medications.
  • It has also been found that stress, fatigue, cigarettes and alcohol or caffeine intake can aggravate or worsen tinnitus.

Treatment for tinnitus

You might have heard your General Practitioner saying that there is no cure for tinnitus, you simply have to live with it.  But have you consulted your nearest Audiologist about it? Living with tinnitus doesn’t have to be a struggle. There are several things you can do to treat this condition, including:

  • Go get that hearing test at your nearest Audiologist together with a tinnitus evaluation. Your audiologist will be able to advise you regarding the possible cause(s) of your tinnitus and whether there is reason for concern.
  • Getting prompt care if you suffer from ear infections or earwax blockages. (for an ear infection or a build-up of earwax;)
  • Discontinuing any non-prescriptive medication that you may suspect is causing your tinnitus. Please consult your doctor if this may be the case with prescribed medications ;
  • Treating any temporomandibular joint problems that you may experience between the jaw and cheek bone. You may want to consult your dentist.

While there isn’t a definitive cure for tinnitus, it can be managed!  There are remedies you can try out to either mitigate the noise or to train yourself to tune it out. Home remedies may be effective for a certain amount of time; even if they do help you live with your tinnitus, we recommend that you see a professional for a clear diagnosis to help you better understand the things you need to do to treat the pesky noise in your ear.

Your nearest Audiologist will be of assistance. Paarl Hearing not only helps diagnose what it is you’re experiencing, we also offer a compassionate and tailor-made tinnitus management that will help you manage the noise in your ears. If you’d like to learn more, contact your nearest Audiologist for an appointment.  

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