Ringing in the ears or medically known as tinnitus is the presence of a perception of a sound inside the ear even without an outside stimulus, according to your local Lutz chiropractor. It is not a disease itself, but a symptom of a variety of conditions affecting the sense of hearing including foreign body in the ears, neurologic deficits, ear infections, and others.
Ringing in the ears can be a sign of a congenital or a sensorineural hearing loss, but in some cases, it can be a result of external factors such as medications. Depending on the type of tinnitus, ringing in the ears can be caused by a variety of conditions.
In objective tinnitus, an examiner may actually hear a sound in the client’s ears. The audible sound can be a result of muscle spasms that leads to the crackling or clicking sound in the middle ear.
An example of an objective tinnitus is a pulsatile tinnitus wherein the sound beats rhythmically with the pulse. This can be a result of atherosclerosis leading to alteration of blood flow in the inner ear. Pulsatile tinnitus can also be due to more serious conditions such as carotid artery aneurysms, giant cell arteritis or vasculitis, which requires early diagnosis and management to prevent possible cerebrovascular accident.
Subjective tinnitus is more common in nature as it may be a result of otologic conditions or conditions arising from the ears. It is a more common form of tinnitus and up to 20% of people experience this type as a result of the following:
- Medication use
Certain medications are ototoxic meaning they can be toxic to the ears. Certain medications include tinnitus as their side-effect including aspirin, quinidine, NSAIDs, chemotherapeutic drugs, antibiotics, diuretics, antidepressants and antiviral drugs. In fact, over 260 drugs are considered ototoxic and may lead to tinnitus as a side-effect or a sign of overdose. Medication effects may eventually lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
- Impacted cerumen, foreign body and ear infections
A common cause of ringing of the ears especially in children is the presence of an impacted ear wax, external or middle ear infections and even foreign body inside the ears.
- Acoustic shock and loud noise
Noise pollution beyond what the human ear can handle may also lead to ringing of the ears as an early sign of hearing loss.
- Ear conditions
The presence of ear disorders such as Meniere’s disease, presbycusis, and acoustic neuroma lead to tinnitus as a common symptom.
- Metal poisoning
Mercury and lead poisoning can also be a reason for tinnitus.
More serious causes of subjective tinnitus include multiple sclerosis, skull fracture, intracranial hypertension and hypotension, whiplash injury and close head injuries.
Other causes of ringing in the ears may include anxiety, depression, benzodiazepine withdrawal, temporomandibular joint disorder, vitamin B12 deficiency, hyperlipidemia, thyroiditis, iron deficiency, anemia, migraine, muscle tension, and nasal congestion.
Most of the causes of ringing of the ears lead to the typical sound in the ears as a result of otoacoustic emissions in the inner ear activating the auditory paths in the brain giving a false perception of tinnitus.
A transient ringing or tinnitus may not be a concern, but ringing of the ears for a prolonged period that tends to reoccur regularly should be evaluated closely.