The exact mechanism underlying tinnitus, what it is and where it is, is unknown at this time but research continues around the world. Some of the causes of tinnitus are:
- Disorders in the outer ear such as excessive ear wax (cerumen), a foreign body, perforated eardrum, or a hair touching the eardrum. Often, removal of the problem (wax, hair, etc.) will relieve the tinnitus.
- Disorders in the middle ear such as an ear infection, otosclerosis, or a benign tumor.
- Disorders in the inner ear such as damage due to noise exposure, presbycusis (hearing loss from aging), Meniere’s Disesase which is also accompanied by episodic dizziness, nausea, ear pressure, and fluctuating hearing loss. Noise exposure is the leading cause of tinnitus and is very preventable with the use of hearing protection.
- Trauma to the head or neck, such as concussion or whiplash, can cause long-lasting tinnitus.
- Certain medications can cause head noises. They include anti-inflammatories such as aspirin and quinine, some sedatives and antidepressants, and certain antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents including furosemide, cisplatinum, streptomycin, neomycin, and kanamycin.
- One of the most difficult causes of tinnitus to diagnose is a vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma) which is a small tumor pressing on the vestibular nerve leading from the cochlea to the brain. Tinnitus may be the only initial symptom.
- Various other causes such as high or low blood pressure, diabetes, vascular disorders, temporomandibular (jaw-joint) disorders, allergies, syphilis and thyroid dysfunction.
Although the majority of people with tinnitus have an associated hearing loss, the presence of tinnitus does not mean that one has decreased hearing.