As you may know, tinnitus is never an independent condition, but a manifestation of another present disease. In other words, it’s unlikely that you will achieve long-term relief if you don’t learn what causes ringing ears in your specific case and treat the underlying problem. To aid you in that, I’ve prepared a comprehensive list of 16 common causes of tinnitus. Read through it carefully and don’t hesitate to consult a physician should you need a more in-depth professional opinion.
More or less natural factors that may cause tinnitus
Let’s start with the gentle stuff before we move on to some scary medical conditions. Quite common causes of tinnitus that aren’t that detrimental to your health in general include:
Age-related hearing loss is accompanied by ringing in the ears sometimes.
Hundreds of ototoxic drugs used in conventional medicine can damage your ear, inducing hearing loss and tinnitus. In most cases, the ringing subsides after you stop taking the dangerous medication. I’ve covered this topic in another one of my articles.
Mood and psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, significant stress.
- Exposure to loud noise, be it an acute (loud music, shouting, etc.) or chronic (sound-polluted working environment like factories, or living in a big city) one can easily result in tinnitus. As a rule, the ringing subsides sometime after the sound is silenced.
Cardiovascular and blood conditions that may cause tinnitus
5. Anemia is a medical condition which consists of a decrease in the total amount of erythrocytes (also known as red blood cells, RBC) or hemoglobin (the main oxygen carrier present inside the RBC) in the blood. As a result, your brain will receive less oxygen than it used to, and one of the manifestations of this is tinnitus.
Additional symptoms: paleness, shortness of breath (especially after physical exercise), dizziness.
6. Atherosclerosis can result in a significant narrowing of the blood vessels, limiting the supply of blood (thus of oxygen too) to your brain and/or inner ear. Tinnitus is one of the manifestations of hypoxia (decreased oxygen supply).
Additional symptoms: headache, elevated blood pressure, high level of blood cholesterol.
7. Arterial hypertension (high blood pressure) can be the result of a vast range of medical conditions of the heart and blood vessels, as well as be caused by diseases of the endocrine glands, or not have a distinguishable cause at all. Just to be clear, arterial hypertension IS NOT the same as atherosclerosis. One can easily be present without the other. In any case, increased blood pressure results in impaired blood supply to all organs in the human body, and this could lead to tinnitus in some cases.
Additional symptoms: headache, dizziness.
8. Vascular malformations. If normal blood vessels are generally straight, like pipes for your blood, vascular malformations are more like a tangled and horrid mess, as if these pipes were just chaotically dumped in a single place for no reason. This can result in a turbulent blood flow and unstable supply of oxygen to adjacent areas, thus causing tinnitus.
Additional symptoms: usually none; may be visible on MRI and CT scans, as well as angiography. Local symptoms may be present depending on the malformation’s localization.
Traumas and injuries that may cause tinnitus
9. Head and/or neck injuries, as well as any resulting traumatic brain injury, can result in tinnitus if the localization of the injury is nearby any of the structures related to the process of hearing. Injuries to the temporal zone (side of the head) are the riskiest ones.
Additional symptoms: visible trauma and all related symptoms (e.g. pain, swelling, hemorrhage).
Metabolic and endocrine conditions that may cause tinnitus
10. Excess weight and obesity can lead to the development of a condition called pseudotumor cerebri, or “false tumor of the brain,” which consists of a significant increase in intracranial pressure (just like during actual tumors). The reasons for this are unknown, but losing the excess weight proved to be beneficial in 81% of overweight people with episodic tinnitus.
Additional symptoms: headache, dizziness, excess weight.
11. Diseases of the thyroid gland manifest in numerous ways, among which changes in blood pressure are among the most prominent ones. For example, hypothyroidism decreases it, while hyperthyroidism skyrockets its levels to borderline absurd numbers (up to 190/140 mm Hg and higher). Both cases are BAD in terms of oxygen supply to the brain. The result? Tinnitus (at least in some cases).
Additional symptoms: hyperthyroidism -> high blood pressure, protruding eyes, irritability, profuse sweating, low tolerance to heat, weight loss, weakness, irregular heartbeat, fine and brittle hair, difficulty falling asleep; hypothyroidism -> weakness, low blood pressure, sleepiness, hair loss, feeling cold, weight gain, apathy, poor memory and concentration.
Conditions of the ears that can cause tinnitus
12. Earwax blockage and other obstructions of the auditory canal can result in tinnitus in severe cases. As a rule, this is caused by direct irritation of the eardrum either by the accumulated cerumen or by, for example, foreign objects in the ear that may obstruct the auditory canal. Removing an ear wax blockage at home could easily relieve tinnitus in some cases, so it’s good to learn how to do it.
Additional symptoms: impaired “muffled” hearing, visible signs of obstruction in some cases.
13. Meniere’s disease is a rare condition of the inner ear with unknown causes. It is believed that genetic and environmental factors could play a role in the process, but there is not enough evidence on this matter at the moment. As a rule, the disorder affects women more often than men and starts at the age of 40-60 years.
Additional symptoms: strong episodes of fullness in the ear or ears, vertigo (dizziness), hearing loss.
14. Ear bone changes, such as osteosclerosis. During this condition, the tiny bones of the inner ear (namely the malleus, incus, and stapes) become hardened and fused together, thus unable to perform their function any longer. According to the American Hearing Research Foundation, osteosclerosis results in tinnitus in 40% to 60% of all cases.
Additional symptoms: hearing loss.
15. Ear infections don’t always cause tinnitus, but such a possibility still exists in severe cases of middle otitis and otitis interna. If that is what you are faced with, there is one natural remedy I strongly recommend keeping at home at all times, especially when you think about all the side effects that prescription antibiotics have.
Additional symptoms: pain in the ears, fever, discharge from the affected ear or ears, hearing loss in severe cases.
16. Perilymph fistula is a condition during which an abnormal connection is present between the middle ear (air-filled under normal circumstances) and inner ear (normally filled with liquid). As a result, the liquid from the inner ear can flow out into the middle ear, and any fluctuations in air volume in the middle ear are easily transmitted to the inner one. The latter effect could cause tinnitus in some cases.
Additional symptoms: fullness in the ear or ears, dizziness, sensitive hearing, worsening of symptoms during changes in altitude.
The bottom line
As you see, the topic on what causes ringing ears is huge at the very least. In this article I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg and hopefully managed to pass you one simple piece of knowledge: although unpleasant, tinnitus is NOT the real enemy.
After all, ringing is just ringing. Bothersome as it is, it won’t kill you.
But tumors, infections, arterial hypertension, and anemia—this nasty stuff can.
Dig deeper, look closer. Find what causes your tinnitus.
This is the first step to getting rid of it once and for all.
If you have experienced ringing ears from any of these causes or maybe from another, let us know in the comments below.