Tinnitus is defined as “the hearing of sound when no external sound is present.” It’s one of the most common hearing complaints in the auditory healthcare community and can be associated with hearing loss. This does not mean, however, that everyone with tinnitus also has hearing loss.
Why tinnitus and hearing loss are normally present together
Actual hearing takes place when sound is funneled through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear. Inside the inner ear there are microscopic hair cells that are directly connected to auditory nerves to the brain. At any stage in this process hearing loss can occur: whether it is the outer ear, middle ear, hair cells, the auditory nerve or the brain.
Tinnitus can also be caused at any point in this hearing process. Some examples include: wax impaction in the ear canal, middle ear diseases like Meniere’s Syndrome or middle ear fluid build-up, inner ear hair cell damage or nerve cells that are misfiring within the brain itself. Any one or more of these can also cause tinnitus.
What's causing your tinnitus is likely what’s causing your hearing loss
Since both hearing loss and tinnitus are likely caused or triggered by the same “malfunction” in our hearing system, chances are high that having tinnitus will also develop into the experience of hearing loss. This is often the case, but not always.
The reason for this is that there are various other triggers for tinnitus that aren’t caused by ear problems. For example: medications (especially high doses of aspirin), TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), heart disease, stress and high blood pressure can all be causes of tinnitus.
Don’t wait - see a professional - get it checked
If you think you may be experiencing signs of tinnitus, make an appointment and visit a qualified hearing healthcare professional. This professional can diagnose your tinnitus and look into the presence of hearing loss. Should hearing loss be present, the possibility is high that the tinnitus and hearing loss are tied together. However, if there is no hearing loss, you will need to follow up with your primary care physician to explore treatment options for your tinnitus.
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