If you’ve ever been to a loud concert, you probably noticed your ears ringing after the show. Sounds that are produced inside your head rather than from an outside source are known as tinnitus.
Tinnitus can take on many different forms, including ringing, clicking, roaring, hissing, buzzing, or whistling. These sounds may be very high pitched, or may sound more like a low roar and they may appear in just one or both ears. For some people, tinnitus comes and goes while others report it being there all the time. The American Tinnitus Association estimates that over 50 million Americans have experienced tinnitus. For many, it’s the temporary ringing in the ears after a concert but for approximately 12 million, tinnitus is an on-going and annoying problem.
Causes of tinnitus
Tinnitus is considered to be more a symptom than an actual illness. Tinnitus is sometimes the result of problems with the tiny hairs inside the inner ear that transmit sounds from the ear to the auditory nerve. When these hairs are damaged, they may create false sounds that are transmitted to the brain as the ringing or buzzing of tinnitus. For many people, one of these conditions is the cause of tinnitus:
• Loud noises – Being around loud noises for an extended time can damage your ability to hear. Firearms, loud equipment, and even music played loudly on an MP3 player or iPod can cause hearing loss if experienced for long periods of time.
• Old age – For many people over age 60, the ability to hear may gradually decline. This kind of hearing loss can also cause tinnitus. This is not to say only older people have tinnitus. People of all ages, including children, can experience tinnitus.
• Excess ear wax – When ear wax accumulates in the ear canal, it can cause a blockage that can cause tinnitus and other problems with hearing.
• Ear bone damage – In some cases, the bones in the middle ear can stiffen and lose their ability to transmit sounds. This condition can be caused by abnormal bone growth, and can also cause tinnitus.