Risk Factors for Tinnitus
For most people, tinnitus is not just tinnitus. It is the symptom or side effect of another problem they’re experiencing. These problems can range from hearing loss to certain diseases. Some conditions might be more of a risk than others, and people with more than one of these conditions are at greater risk.
The primary risk factors for tinnitus are Meniere’s Disease and noise-induced hearing loss. Both of these conditions affect the ear in some way, and tinnitus might manifest as a symptom. Once these issues are treated, a person’s tinnitus should be alleviated.
Meniere’s is a chronic disorder that affects the inner ear. The exact cause of this condition is unclear, but many scientists believe it is caused by fluid in the inner ear. The severity of this condition might wax and wane over time, but it never truly goes away. Bouts of vertigo, headaches, congestion of the ear, and tinnitus are all notable side effects of Meniere’s disease.
This condition largely affects people over the age of 40, and usually only affects one ear. Meniere’s can be diagnosed through a series of hearing and balance tests, and it is recommended that dietary and lifestyle changes are made after the diagnosis. While there are no medications to treat the overall disease, motion sickness, and nausea medications can be prescribed to help with the vertigo.
Many people suffering from Meniere’s also experience severe hearing loss in that ear. In these cases, fitting a hearing aid to the ear can help with hearing loss and tinnitus.
The biggest risk factor for tinnitus is hearing loss, particularly noise-induced hearing loss. While these issues are connected, not every case of tinnitus traces back to hearing loss. Likewise, not every person with hearing loss experiences tinnitus.
Noise-induced hearing loss is usually characterised as a deterioration of the sensitive cells in the cochlea. The cochlea is a spiral-shaped organ in the ear that helps process sound waves. When these cells are damaged, hearing loss and tinnitus can occur.
For most people, noise-induced hearing loss is caused by a “risky” lifestyle or past. Those who worked around loud machinery, gunfire, or loud music are more likely to experience hearing loss than those who did not. Many people also report experiencing tinnitus after years of listening to loud music, especially via headphones or earbuds.
It is recommended that people test their hearing as they get older. An audiogram should be taken every few years, especially if you lead a lifestyle filled with loud noises. If hearing loss is diagnosed early, treatment can begin faster. This can reduce the intensity of your symptoms later in life.
In cases like these, hearing aids can help alleviate tinnitus by tackling hearing loss and providing tinnitus therapies. Signia provides information on hearing aids, how they work, and what features might help you. If you’re curious about hearing aids, you can also schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional in your area to find out more.