Do you hear a constant sound in your ears, even though there is no external source linked to the noise? If so, you’re likely suffering from tinnitus, and you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that more than 50 million Americans suffer from some degree of tinnitus, 16 million Americans experience such severe ringing that they require some type of treatment, and another 2 million suffer from such debilitating tinnitus that it impacts their daily lives.
Tinnitus is marked by phantom-like ringing, roaring, hissing, buzzing, or clicking noise; in other words, the sound can be heard, yet nothing outside of the ears appears to be making the noise. Those who suffer from tinnitus experience the sound on a regular, if not constant basis. It can affect one or both ears, and be mild or severe. What causes those phantom sounds? Here’s a look at 14 of the most common causes of tinnitus.
1. No known cause.
Most causes of tinnitus are considered idiopathic, meaning that a source for the phantom noise cannot be identified. Medical professionals refer to this type of tinnitus as primary tinnitus. Why the cause of the sound cannot be determined, hearing loss can be identified, and that hearing loss is caused by loud noises; however, the reason why loud noises can result in hearing loss that causes tinnitus is not clearly understood.
However, there are several theories that could explain idiopathic or primary tinnitus. One popular theory is that sensory cells that lie within the cochlea, the spiral cavity located within the inner ear, are unable to direct signals to the brain because they are irritated or damaged. The absence of actual signals causes a reaction in the nerve cells within the center of hearing in the brain to become highly activated, which produces phantom noises, or tinnitus.