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What Causes Ringing in Your Ears as You Age?

Tinnitus patient with ringing in her ears

Have you noticed an irritating ringing in your ears? It’s not an exterior sound because no one else hears it. So, what is it – and why do you have it? 

Ringing in your ears is commonly known as tinnitus. This is a condition that can affect anyone at any stage in life. However, as you age, the chances of getting tinnitus will increase. As for what causes it, well, there can be many different things. 

Hearing loss

Hearing loss is possibly the number one cause of ringing in the ears. There’s a common misconception that tinnitus causes hearing loss when it’s actually the other way round. Hearing loss is when the sensory cells in your ear have become damaged. As a result, you don’t pick up sounds as you used to. This is why everything seems quieter. 

Some studies have shown that this leads to tinnitus as your brain starts to produce these ringing sounds to compensate for the lack of noise. You’ll know if your tinnitus is caused by hearing loss because it coincides with your inability to hear correctly. Usually, this is most likely to be an issue when you reach 60 or older. At this age, the sensory cells in your ears begin to die out, leading to hearing loss and tinnitus. 

Damage to your ears caused by loud noises

Tinnitus is often caused by damage to your ears through exposure to loud noises. Your audiologist will tell you that any sounds above 85dB have the potential to be harmful. Loud sounds can rupture or tear your eardrum, which leads to the ringing or whistling associated with tinnitus. 

As you get older, you may be exposed to loud sounds over a long period. For example, what if you spent 20 years of your life working in a noisy factory? The accumulation of loud noises will damage your ears every single day, making it likely that you suffer from tinnitus. Protecting yourself from loud noises is one of the best ways to prevent tinnitus. 

Too much earwax

Our ears use earwax as a way of getting rid of bacteria and germs. Usually, you don’t have to worry about it as it takes care of itself. However, earwax blockages are somewhat common. This happens when too much wax is built up in your ear, and it hardens. 

For older people, this is common if you wear hearing aids or use earplugs. By inserting something into your ear, you make it harder for the wax to soften and melt away naturally. As a result, it can solidify and cause blockages that lead to tinnitus. If you have a lot of wax, then it can touch your eardrum and cause further irritation, which also causes tinnitus. 

Specific medications

Sometimes, your medication can cause tinnitus. Or, if you already have it, then medication can make it worse. Different types can be problematic, including the following: 

  • Antibiotics
  • Aspirin
  • Diuretics
  • Cancer medications
  • Antidepressants

If you take any of these medications, then there’s a chance it might be what’s causing the ringing in your ears. See your audiologist for a full check-up and examination as they can help figure out if it’s medication-based or something else. 

High blood pressure

People with high blood pressure are found to be at an increased risk of getting tinnitus. This is because the condition affects your blood flow. As a result, it leads to issues in your ears, which causes tinnitus. 

If you have no hearing problems, you don’t get exposed to loud sounds, and you have no earwax, then this medical condition may be the cause. 

Can tinnitus be treated?

Some tinnitus is temporary, which means it will go away when the cause is dealt with. Tinnitus caused by loud noises, earwax, medication, or high blood pressure may fall into this bracket. But, some tinnitus is permanent – mainly when it comes from hearing loss. In this case, it can’t be cured, but it can be treated.

Your audiologist will suggest various options, but the most common are hearing aids, sound machines and tinnitus retraining therapy. One may work better for you than the others; you’ll need to visit your audiologist to find out.

Contact us today for more help!

At the Audiological Services of San Francisco, we can help you with a range of tinnitus and hearing loss-related problems. So, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to learn more and get the help you need. Call us at 415-346-6886, and we’ll happily answer any of your questions.