Is there a really annoying high-pitched ringing in your ears all the time? It could be tinnitus, a sort of white-noise sound in your ears that never goes away. According to the latest estimates, it’s a condition that affects around 16 million people and is literally called “the sound of silence.”
We’ve all had times when we’ve experienced ringing in your ears. You might have been aware of sound in your ears while you’ve been sitting in a silent room. It’s just something our ears do from time to time. But it can become very annoying – and potentially dangerous – when the ringing is constant, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
According to huffingtonpost.com/ doctors don’t really know what causes the condition. It seems to come and go as it pleases, getting louder at some points, and quieter at others. Often it goes hand in hand with another condition called hyperacusis – or extreme sensitivity to loud noises – especially among people like soldiers who are regularly exposed to things like gunfire.
Aniruddha Deshpande, an audiologist from the University of Iowa hospital says that there are a number of things that can cause tinnitus. Here’s a rundown:
1. Anxiety And Stress
The link between anxiety, stress, and ringing in the ears seems far-fetched. But there’s a growing literature which suggests that a real link may exist. It turns out that many people who have anxiety also have a proclivity to develop tinnitus. One theory is that tinnitus results from the chemical changes that affect the body during the fight or flight response. When the body goes into fight or flight mode, the capillaries expand to allow more blood flow, the nerves become more charged and alertness goes up. All these changes may then result in increased blood pressure in the ears which may lead to the ringing sensation.
Another theory is even stranger. Being in fight or flight mode may force you to become more attuned to perceived noise in your ears when you feel as if you are in danger.
2. Hearing Loss
According to EarScience.org.au/lions-hearing, a leading cause of tinnitus is hearing loss. While that might sound paradoxical, there are actually good reasons for it. One of the reasons is that, in the absence of noise, the brain creates its own “phantom sounds,” rather like how amputees say that they can feel a leg or an arm that has been removed. In a sense, our brains create a model of the inputs out bodies should be sending them, and in the absence of real inputs, they generate their own.
3. Earwax Buildup
Earwax is also suspected to be a cause of tinnitus. Most professionals recommend that people avoid clearing out their ears with earbuds or their fingers as this can result in excessive earwax production. If you find that you’ve got a lot of earwax in your ear, the best solution is to deal with the underlying infection first before using earwax-busting drops.
Sometimes, if you’ve had a sinus infection, you may feel pain behind the ears. This can sometimes leave you with a ringing sound until the inflammation has cleared.
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