Most commonly, tinnitus is caused by damage to the inner ear. This damage can occur from a number of sources, such as exposure to very loud sounds throughout your life or toxic medications that damage the ear. Tinnitus can also be caused by something as simple as earwax. In very rare cases, underlying medical conditions can cause tinnitus. Interestingly, research has shown that up to 95 percent of young normal-hearing adults experience tinnitus when placed in the right conditions.
The perception of tinnitus is the result of changes in the auditory system, which leads to an increase in the neuron activity from the inner ear to the brain. This increase in nerve activity is interpreted by the brain as sound. Often, the brain perceives the sound throughout most of the day, or just in quiet situations. Continued awareness of the tinnitus sound can result in emotional disturbance, such as irritation, frustration, or anger.
Stress and fatigue have also been shown to affect tinnitus. It’s important to make time to relax and reduce your stress levels. Work with your audiologist to find a good support network and devise methods to reduce stress and improve relaxation. If tinnitus affects your quality of life by reducing your sleep, affecting your performance at work, making tasks in your everyday life less enjoyable, or reduces your ability to concentrate, you may benefit from some sort of intervention. If your tinnitus is bothersome, you should seek help.
A number of healthcare professionals specialize in tinnitus treatment and can help if you have symptoms. The first step is to see an audiologist who can visually inspect your ears and evaluate your hearing. Tinnitus is most often related to inner ear damage. In these cases, an audiologist is the most skilled and appropriate professional to evaluate and treat the problem. If your tinnitus is potentially caused by an underlying medical condition, we can make the appropriate referral to a physician.