Tinnitus, itself, is not a disease but may be a sign of damage in the hearing system or brain.
Hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus. Hearing loss can be due to normal ageing or trauma to the cochlea (the hearing organ) through noise, drugs, or chemicals.
It has been suggested that because the cochlea is no longer sending normal signals to the brain, the brain develops its own noise to make up for the lack of normal sound signals.This is interpreted as sound - tinnitus.
Loud noise exposure damages the hearing and is a common cause of tinnitus. Many people are unaware and unconcerned about the harmful effects of excessively loud noise at discos or from using earphones.
Anything that affects our hearing, such as an ear infection or excess wax in the ear can make tinnitus worse.
Meniere’s disease is a common cause of subjective tinnitus. Someone suffering from this complains of fullness in the ear or hearing loss, roaring tinnitus and dizziness that can ast for hours.
Acoustic neuroma is a rare cause of subjective tinnitus. It is a tumour that grows on the nerve that leads from the brain to the inner ear.The affected person usually notices the tinnitus and hearing loss in one ear, unlike the more common type caused by hearing loss that is usually felt in both ears.
Drugs such as aspirin (if overused) and some antibiotics are also other causes of tinnitus.
Blood flow, either through normal or abnormal blood vessels near the ear is usually the cause of objective tinnitus. Causes of pulsatile tinnitus (tinnitus that corresponds to the heartbeat) include pregnancy, anaemia, an overactive thyroid gland, or tumours involving blood vessels near the ear (glomus tumour and arteriovenous malformation).
The narrowing of the carotid artery (a major blood vessel to the brain) can also cause pulsatile tinnitus.
Benign intracranial hypertension, a condition where an increase in the pressure of the fluid surrounding the brain causes pulsatile tinnitus.
Jaw joint misalignment problems or muscles of the ear or throat ‘twitching’ can cause clicking types of tinnitus.