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FireMadeFlesh's avatar

What causes a bout of tinnitus?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (16548points) June 23rd, 2010

We all know tinnitus in general is caused excessive exposure to loud noises, but is there any reason why the bouts come when they do?

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18 Answers

Kraken's avatar

Possibly a parasite in the ear.

YARNLADY's avatar

Nobody knows. It varies with every person. Doctors seem to be baffled about what causes it.

Scooby's avatar

Have you been subject to very loud prolonged noise pollution recently?? In the work place or near an air port for instance?? :-/

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Kraken I’m not looking for speculation, I’m looking for a theory.
@YARNLADY Thanks. Do you know of any theories that have been proposed?
@Scooby No, but I have been to some very loud rock concerts over the last few years that have given me temporary damage the following day. I have no doubt that this has caused it for me, but I want to know what causes the ringing to happen some times and not others. Thankfully it is infrequent, but why last night? Why not tonight, or for several days before last night?

hearkat's avatar

As @YARNLADY mentions, the causes of tinnitus are unknown. The microscopic structures of the inner ear can not be seen even with our best imaging technology. Post-mortem, we can see them with electron microscopes, but then they are inactive.

Are you referring to those fleeting moments when the ear rings and hearing seems muffled, that old wives’ tales say are because someone is talking about you? They do seem to happen to nearly everyone. Speculation is that they can be related to body chemistry changes (sodium/potassium balance) which can be effected by diet, medical conditions or treatments, or triggered by stress, like eye-twitching.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@hearkat That is what I am referring to, thank you. It seems to happen more in quiet moments though, not when people are talking. It probably lasts 5–10 seconds. Does the term tinnitus then refer to a more constant or more frequent ringing?

hearkat's avatar

Any tinnitus is percieved to be louder when there is less ambient noise to drown it out or distract us. That is why people hear it more when they have an ear infection or impacted ear wax, and one of the reasons that it gets louder as hearing loss gets worse.

Scooby's avatar


I too have been to many concerts over the years probably the loudest rock bands of them all, put that together with working in heavy industry most of my working life hasn’t helped my hearing over the years, I’m now partially deaf in my left ear & I know overall my hearing has declined from what it once was, not just as a result of the years of abuse my hearing has taken but also because, well, I’m no spring chicken anymore & I guess age has added it’s affects too… I get bouts of tinnitus almost every day, some times my left ear then it switches to my right, it’s to do with frequencies I’m told but that’s about as much of the science I know, what I do know is if I hold my nose & lightly blow (keeping my mouth closed) can ease the high pitched tone I get ….
Check out this site it may give you a better understanding of what I call, MY QUASIMODO AFFECT, ( “THE BELL’S, THE BELL’S“ ) :-/

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Scooby I guess that’s what I’ve got to look forward to. I’m still comparatively young, so its really not too bad, but I’ve always had sensitive hearing and would like to keep it that way. Holding your nose and pushing equalises the pressure in your ears through the eustachian canals, which gets back to @hearkat‘s latest post on background noise. Thanks for your input.

john65pennington's avatar

Sometimes, this is a classic sign of upcoming hearing loss. it happened this way for me. i finally had to wear hearing aids.

MaryW's avatar

I understand that extra noise in the ear is related to how the little hairs in the ear canal respond to their environment. They both could be caused from loud noise and noise can loud destroy. However tinnitus and deafness or hearing loss are two different subjects. My husband has it all the time but for him it is most noticable when all else is quiet.

YARNLADY's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh My husband has a permanent case of tinnitus and everything he knows about it he got off the internet or by discussing it with his doctor.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@john65pennington That’s not what I want to hear, I’m only 19!
Excuse the pun, it was unintentional – honest!

Aster's avatar

Mine started when we moved and the dogs started barking loudly in my office. It may have damaged my ears. Funny this is, it doesn’t sound like it’s in my ears. It’s in between my ears. lol
And sometimes I can detect it “ringing” to my heartbeat. Bad deal.

hearkat's avatar

@Aster: If it’s in the middle, that usually means it’s about equal in both ears. Hearing pulsations in time with your pulse happens because the carotid artery passes so close to the middle ear cavity. It usually is most noticeable when one’s blood pressure is up or if one’s ears are congested.

gmacookie's avatar

I’ve had tinnitus in left ear since I was 20(I’m 76 now) because of a ruptured eardrum; it healed but the membrane is thin. Now suddenly I’ve developed tinnitus inthe right ear which sounds like a car alarm going off. Needless to say I can’t sleep very well with this. I’m wondering if one or two things I’ve done this past week could have brought it on: first, got a huge ham for Christmas(I’m not supposed to have nitrates because of allergy problems) and have been eating it for the last several days in several ways. Second, tried using Tylenol for Arthritis for my knee pain. I’ve quit both of these things (ham and Tylenol) the last couple days to see if once it’s all out of my system the tinnitus in the right ear (car alarm) gets better. It’s awful! I’ll post again in a few days. I have to say that in the last two days it has gotten less loud.

hearkat's avatar

@gmacookie – Welcome to Fluther!

An allergic reaction could exacerbate tinnitus. Tylenol is not generally associated with tinnitus, though – high doses of aspirin are.

I am curious about the description… there are many different sounds to car alarms. Does it sound like a pulsing car horn? Or a very high-pitched siren sound? Is the sound much like your typical tinnitus, only louder? Are you having any dizziness or wooziness?

I would recommend scheduling an examination by a specialist – including a comprehensive audiological evaluation. Even if your symptoms resolve, it will be useful to have a baseline in case you experience a recurrence in the future. If the tinnitus is pulsating or you have any additional symptoms besides the tinnitus, I recommend the evaluation very strongly.

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