What causes tinnitus?
The exact physiological cause of tinnitus is not known, however there are several likely sources which are known to trigger or worsen tinnitus. In a study from 2010, researchers found that tinnitus was more prevalent within populations of adult Americans who are older, were former smokers, and adults with hypertension, hearing impairment, or loud noise exposure. Smoking and hypertension increases the risk of tinnitus due to their effects on the vascular system, constricting blood vessels within the head and neck area.
Persistent ringing in the ears is commonly linked to hearing loss; the exposure to loud noises, whether from one’s occupation or leisure activities (firearms, etc.) also increase the risk, due to damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. In some cases, changes within the ear (earwax blockage, ear bone changes) may cause tinnitus, as well as certain diseases related to the ear, such as Meniere’s disease (a condition in which excess fluid disturbs the balance within the inner ear). Head injuries and problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), where the jaw and skull connect, may also cause tinnitus.