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Why Does Tinnitus Occur?

Tinnitus is not a disease but a persistent condition. It is like pain — a signal that something has gone wrong somewhere. Tinnitus is usually a symptom of some other underlying condition and most often considered a nuisance. A vast majority of individuals who experience tinnitus have been exposed to loud sound over a period of time. The loud sound causes damage to the ear and this damage results in the brain responding to a sound that is not there. If it was a short exposure to loud sounds, like a concert, firearms, heavy construction, or lawn mowers the tinnitus will sometimes linger for a few days then go away or sometimes it will linger indefinitely.

Some other common causes of tinnitus are age-related hearing loss, earwax blockage in the ear canal, foreign objects poked in the ear, nasal allergies, mercury or lead poisoning, medications, ear infections and abnormal bone growth in the ear. Less common causes of tinnitus include stress and depression, and inner ear disorder called Meniere's disease, head or neck injury, and a benign tumor of the cranial nerve called acoustic neuroma.

There are blood vessel disorders that cause tinnitus including head and neck tumors, turbulent blood flow and high blood pressure. Certain antibiotics, diuretics, and cancer procedures have been known to cause tinnitus.

There are two basic types of tinnitus, Objective and subjective. Subjective tinnitus is the most common type. An individual with subjective tinnitus is the only person who can hear the sound in their ear and the sounds are usually a result of nerve damage to the small hair follicles in the ear that vibrate when sound is introduced. When this damage occurs the brain somehow begins getting the message that sound is present when it is not and responds by sending back the sound to the ear that the brain “thinks” is being heard.

In objective tinnitus no one other than the sufferer can hear the sound the person is hearing. The most common causes for objective tinnitus comes from muscle spasms, and altered blood flow. In cases of objective tinnitus the condition that causes the sound may be serious and sometimes life threatening because it is often associated with problems in blood pressure and certain types of hypertension.

Many people notice the noises to be louder in the evening and right before bed. During the day, the distraction of the environment around you and the activities you participate in as well as your own noises seem to make the tinnitus less noticeable. When the world around you quiets down, the tinnitus can seem more apparent and more bothersome. Fatigue can also affect tinnitus and by the end of the day many people are worn down.

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