What causes tinnitus?
The actual mechanism responsible for tinnitus is not yet known. However, we do know that it is a real – not imagined – symptom of activity and/or damage in the auditory or neural system. The most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to excessively loud noise, either a single intense event (like a shotgun blast) or long-term exposure either through work or recreational activities (shooting, chainsaws, loud music). Tinnitus can also result from trauma to the head or neck and a small percentage of tinnitus cases arise from medical conditions. Finally, prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause or exacerbate tinnitus.
What makes tinnitus worse?
Loud noise! It’s so important for your total hearing health to protect yourself from loud noise. Excessive use of alcohol can also worsen tinnitus for some people, as can caffeine and nicotine. Many drugs can have tinnitus as a side effect (check with your doctor). Stress is also a major factor, and many of our clients report they notice a reduction in the volume of their tinnitus when their stress levels are lower.
Who does tinnitus affect?
Tinnitus is very common, most people experience it in their lives typically in a quiet environment or after high levels of noise exposure. Troublesome tinnitus affects approximately 11% of the South Australian population, including people of all ages.
Tinnitus is most commonly experienced by those with a history of noise exposure, those with hearing loss and the elderly.
Children can also experience tinnitus, however, they are less likely to say they have tinnitus because they may not notice a problem or understand what it could be. Many children with tinnitus seem to grow out of it before they reach adulthood. If you think your child has tinnitus, see your child’s GP or an audiologist.
Does it mean I’m going deaf?
No. Whilst tinnitus can be an indication that there has been some kind of damage to the auditory system, it does not mean that you will become deaf. Tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, and hearing loss does not cause tinnitus, although the two often exist together.