Tinnitus, often described as ringing in the ears, affects roughly 10-15 percent of the American adult population, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). The disorder can cause a person to hear noises inaudible to others, including a roaring, clicking, hissing, buzzing or ringing.

These noises are perceived when something causes the auditory system – composed of the ear, the auditory nerve and the parts of the brain responsible for processing sound – to act haywire.

Causes of tinnitus

Tinnitus isn’t an issue in and of itself; rather it is more accurately described as a symptom of a disease or issue causing the auditory system to act up. Common health conditions responsible for tinnitus include: noise-induced hearing loss, presbycusis, ear and sinus infections, diseases of the heart or blood vessels, Meniere’s disease, brain tumors, hormonal changes in women (common in pregnant women) or thyroid abnormalities.

For older individuals, tinnitus is often the first sign of hearing loss, according to the NIDCD. In these cases, tinnitus is often remedied with the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss, usually with hearing aids.

Many younger individuals may experience tinnitus as a result of noise-induced hearing loss, which occurs when people are exposed to long periods of loud noises or short bursts of dangerously loud noises.

Individuals who work in noisy environments, such as in a factory, in construction or on a road crew, are prime for developing noise-induced hearing loss. When this type of hearing loss occurs, the sensory hair cells in the inner ear are permanently damaged. Like those suffering from other forms of hearing loss, hearing aids can help remedy any tinnitus-like symptoms associated with noise-induced hearing loss.

Other factors

Tinnitus can also be caused by outside factors, including changes in pressure and the use of ototoxic medications. The NIDCD reports that more than 200 drugs and medications are known to cause tinnitus. Common, everyday medications that can cause tinnitus include aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, some blood pressure and heart medicines, some antidepressants and a handful of cancer medicines.

If you are suffering from tinnitus symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact a hearing care provider and schedule an appointment. Your hearing specialist will be able to help identify your cause of tinnitus and find a treatment to relieve symptoms as well.