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Possible Causes of Tinnitus Based on Survey of Sufferers

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Glenn Stok has tinnitus and did a lot of research to understand its complications. He shares his knowledge for those with similar concerns.

Tinnitus has many causes based on  numerous factors.

Tinnitus has many causes based on numerous factors.

This is an analysis of a tinnitus sufferers' survey to determine possible causes of ringing in the ears. As a tinnitus sufferer myself, I conducted this survey using my knowledge of statistical analysis.

The following is my analysis of the results, which I separated into three categories:

  1. Circumstances that might be related to tinnitus.
  2. Circumstances that are probably not related.
  3. Circumstances that have inconclusive results.

The results are broken down into percentages to determine how likely any of the situations might cause of tinnitus. In some cases, they don’t add up to 100% because of people who were not sure and did not answer yes or no.

Circumstances That Might Be Related to Tinnitus

Four things stood out in my survey with more people saying "yes," and I feel that the medical community should consider investigating these particular issues.

Can Vertigo Cause Tinnitus?

Survey results: 54% Yes / 46% No

Vertigo was close to the middle but is leaning towards a possibility by 54%.

Can Mercury Tooth Fillings Cause Tinnitus?

Survey results: 62% Yes / 38% No

I find it interesting how many people with tinnitus have mercury fillings. I wonder if this can be a cause. 62% is a considerable percentage leaning towards that possibility.

I once asked my dentist about removing the mercury fillings that I got as a child. He said it’s safer to leave them in since the removal process can cause more mercury to get into the body. He said that if left alone, little is absorbed. Not enough to cause trouble. Nevertheless, I wonder about that.

Can Wi-Fi Cause Tinnitus?

Survey results: 92% Yes / 8% No

I installed a Wi-Fi router in my house in 2003, just two years before my tinnitus began. That was when they started to become common in homes and offices. So I thought that might have been what is causing it for me.

However, I still need to rule that out. That high 92% percentage of Wi-Fi users is misleading. The high score was only because most people have Wi-Fi in their homes these days anyway.

So the 92% result is meaningless. It does not mean that Wi-Fi causes tinnitus. But it's an interesting situation to consider nevertheless.

Can Loud Music Cause Tinnitus?

Survey results: 75% Yes / 25% No

75% of the people who were asked if they ever stood near loudspeakers in discos or nightclubs said they had done that.

Standing near speakers in a nightclub and listening to loud music is undoubtedly an issue. One surefire cause of tinnitus is noise-induced. Being near an explosion, for example, leaves people with ringing in the ears and possibly loss of hearing.

Circumstances That Are Probably Not Related

The following eight issues had many more “no” than “yes” responses, indicating that they may not be related to tinnitus:

  1. Deviated septum: 15% Yes / 69% No
  2. Rosacea: 38% Yes / 62% No
  3. Herniated disc in cervical spine (neck): 31% Yes / 69% No
  4. Lives near high power electric wires: 17% Yes / 83% No
  5. Tourette Syndrome: 0% Yes / 100% No
  6. Uses artificial sweeteners: 27% Yes / 73% No
  7. Hit on the ears or sideways slam to the head: 25% Yes / 75% No
  8. Aphasia symptoms (unable to speak for short period): 7% Yes / 80% No

Analysis:

Looking at the Tourette’s Syndrome results, none of the tinnitus sufferers who answered the survey have it. However, a reverse study to see how many Tourette sufferers have tinnitus would be useful for comparison.

I was almost sure I'd see more affirmative responses for rosacea. I thought rosacea might attack tissues deep inside, besides just the skin, thus affecting the brain. The survey results disproved that theory.

Circumstances That Have Inconclusive Results

I consider the issues that had nearly equal "yes" and "no" responses inconclusive. These three were more or less balanced:

  1. Allows water to run in ears during a shower: 50% Yes / 50% No
  2. Blows nose hard: 46% Yes / 54% No
  3. Had nosebleeds: 50% Yes / 50% No

Analysis:

Even though the results are so balanced, we should not rule out these three items. The results may be inconclusive, but they may still be possible, due to half the positive responses.

Considerations on the Survey Results

One should keep in mind that statistics can fool us. Since I studied statistical analysis in college, I realize that my research with this survey is not complete. It isn't very objective because the people surveyed were biased.

The only way to have a non-biased survey would have been to have an equal number of people without tinnitus involved in the study. That would help provide a complete picture.

Since I did not include people without tinnitus in the survey, the results presented here are not complete. Nevertheless, the results do add to the overall information available for further scientific study.

Do Doctors Know Anything About Tinnitus?

There are many possible causes for tinnitus, ranging from otologic disorders to noise-induced hearing loss. I ran into the problem that each specialist told me something different, and I never actually found one who knew much about it.

I had one audiologist give me a hearing test. I passed. He couldn't understand why I didn't have hearing loss. What's worse is that he didn't understand the difference between subjective and objective tinnitus.

Knowing the difference is essential, and any doctor who does not know that is a quack in my opinion. The answer to this would indicate if the tinnitus is a real sound in the ear that the doctor can hear with an instrument (objective), or if the brain imagines it and only the sufferer can hear it (subjective).1

When I asked him about this, he admitted he never tested for it. That surprised me because he was a professional audiologist. The test he performed was a total waste of time. It’s crucial that one's doctor confirms the difference because objective tinnitus could indicate a vascular disorder with the carotid or vertebrobasilar system.2

Another doctor did a CT Scan, but then when I asked if the eighth cranial nerve was visualized in the scan, he admitted he did not get an image of that significant auditory nerve. What a waste that was!

These doctors bill the insurance companies for this useless work! That's really a shame!

I am sure some doctors have integrity and desire to make a difference for patients rather than pretend they know something. We need to be diligent with researching the background and patient reviews when selecting doctors.

Is There Any Research Being Done on Tinnitus Treatment?

One of the ideas professionals have about certain forms of tinnitus is that it’s a malfunction of the brain, specifically of the auditory functions. Therefore another possible cause could be auditory brain cells that are firing abnormally.

New research might be close to finding a cure for this form of tinnitus. In a clinical trial at the University of Minnesota, a device was designed to help rewire brain circuits to reduce the symptoms of tinnitus.

The device combines sounds with electric zaps to the tongue. Known as bimodal neuromodulation, it's a technique that tries to find and shut down the tinnitus cells in the brains auditory circuits.3

Final Thoughts

Despite the many doctors who engage with patients without any knowledge of the symptom, I find it satisfying to know that professionals do exist who perform meaningful research studies with the goal of finding a cure for tinnitus.

No matter the cause, we may soon be welcoming a solution to this otologic disorder that interferes with the quality of life.

Resources

  1. Richard W. Crummer, MD, and Ghinwa A. Hassan, MD. (Jan 1, 2004). “Diagnostic Approach to Tinnitus.” American Family Physician
  2. J Clin Neurol. (March 31, 2009). “Tinnitus: Characteristics, Causes, Mechanisms, and Treatments.” US National Library of Medicine
  3. Diana Kwon. (October 7, 2020). “New Tinnitus Treatment Alleviates Annoying Ringing in the Ears.” Scientific American

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Glenn Stok

Comments

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on April 08, 2019:

Russ Black - The wine or beer might be triggering your tinnitus in your case, if it seems to be correlated. Everyone seems to have different triggers. Thanks for you suggestion.

Russ Black on April 08, 2019:

Hi Glenn,

I wouldn't give up on the rosacea link if I were you. I've noticed that sometimes I can drink a glass of wine or beer and notice nothing. Other times it will trigger my rosacea. Those are usually on the same days that my tinnitis seems to be turned up more.

Btw... I did a google search for this specific link and your article came up.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on January 25, 2018:

Nancy - I have no knowledge of clinical reports on Fentanyl. However, it is well known that some experiments doctors have tried to cure tinnitus can have severe negative results.

The examples I mentioned near the end of this article, that I witnessed myself, indicate how little doctors know or understand about tinnitus.

I know someone who's doctor performed surgery to eliminate her tinnitus by cutting the 8th cranial nerve. After the surgery she was totally deaf in that ear, but still had tinnitus.

Button line, be careful how you allow your doctors to experiment on you. I’m glad you pulled through the experiment without lasting damage to your heart and body.

Nancy on January 25, 2018:

I was using Fentanyl patches until they finally led me to stop breathing. Once the EMTs revived me I spent a week in the hospital. I was fortunate to not have damage to my heart, lungs or brain, however I have tinnitus to a mind numbing extent. Could the fentanyl overdose cause this?

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on January 09, 2017:

DzyMsLizzy - I've ruled out WiFi as a cause also. I have also given up with sound machines. I've come to accept my tinnitus as background noise. I guess you did the same thing when you said you let it serve as "white noise" to sleep. Anxiety does indeed make it worse. I'll check out the update to your article.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on January 09, 2017:

Very interesting. I just added an update to my own article on the matter, regarding new information I found.

As far as WiFi goes, I had the problem long before we had that technology. I know one anecdotal statement is not a sufficient sample for a conclusion of any kind, but I do remain interested in the topic.

I've worn out two sound machines, and am currently using an app I found for my Kindle. In between, when I've been in a sufficiently calm mood, I've found I can let the tinnitus itself serve as the 'white noise' to let me sleep. (In my case, the sound is a low-pitched humming like a distant electric motor.) It does not work, though, if I am anxious or riled up about some issue. ;)

Carmen Flores on December 03, 2016:

About 6 months ago I started to hear noises, such as an old computer's fan buzzing. I've gone to my doctor, who said to get used to it because this comes with age. I'm 51 years old, but don't consider myself as old.

I've also seen an ENT doctor who treated me for an infection. Since that didn't help, he did a hearing test which confirmed no hearing loss. I do, however, suffer from a sinus infection on and off and take antihistamines. I read that these could be causing my problem. I think I may stop taking this for a couple of weeks to see how that goes.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 23, 2015:

MizBejabbers - Sorry to hear that you and your brother both had tinnitus as far back as you remember. I can remember the time when I didn't have it. When it first began, I had hopes of getting back to experiencing the quiet, but that never happened. It became permanent. But I got used to it. I don't have a problem with hearing lose, expect at the one single frequency where my tinnitus is.

I had the same experience with doctors as you had. My audiologist didn't even understand how I can hear everything else. I'm actually surprised that an educated doctor doesn't understand how sound is simply various frequencies. If one is blocked, it doesn't necessarily affect hearing other frequencies. You and I need to find better doctors. Let me know if you find one. :-)

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on July 23, 2015:

Very interesting survey, but as you say, it isn't conclusive. My brother and I both have tinnitus, and neither of us can remember ever not having it. I worked in radio for 20 years when I was young, and he listened to loud music during the hard rock years. We have both been diagnosed with a hearing loss and were fitted with hearing aids which helped neither of us. We came to the same conclusion, each on our own, that the tinnitus masks sounds in certain auditory ranges and we test out not hearing them. This has yet to be proved, and my audiologist doesn't believe it. Anyway, just adding to your already existing stock of information. If you find a cure, please publish it.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 12, 2015:

agvulpes - I agree with you that doctors don't know anything about tinnitus. This was proven to me by the many doctors I had gone to when my tinnitus first began. I found it to be a disgrace how doctors lied about knowing how to cure it, when all the "cures" failed. They also could never answer my questions. One doctor even did an MRI and when I asked him if my 8th cranial nerve, which is the auditory nerve, showed up in the MRI, he became infuriated that I knew more than he knew.

Peter from Australia on July 11, 2015:

I have had Tinnitus since about 1960 , caused by an industrial accident ( no WiFi around then) I have been through all of the tests and I am convinced that 'doctors' don't know anything / or don't want to know anything about the Problem.

I do use 'masking' methods to cover up the 'ringing' and I do know that stress will make the problem worse.

I was also tested for Meniere's disease but thankfully was cleared:)

I believe that many people develop Tinnitus by not 'protecting' their hearing at a young age and with the advent of ear pods the problem will more than likely get worse and we will have a higher percentage of people with Tinnitus further down the track !

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 14, 2014:

Viking305 - It seems that your type of Tinnitus is from excessive noise from your work environment. It's interesting that it got worse when you had a chest infection. That goes to show that very little is still known about Tinnitus. It can be related to so many other illnesses. I'm sorry to hear that yours is aggravating to distraction. Mine was like that at the beginning but I learned to ignore it as best I can.

L M Reid from Ireland on February 14, 2014:

I have suffered from Tinnitus for over 30 years. The cause of mine I believe is working in a factory as a teenager where it was impossible to hear or talk to other workers because of the noise of the machines.

Then about ten years after that I had a very bad chest infection and this caused another terrible noise in my ears. Neither of these noises have gone away and are so irritating and sometimes worse still they aggravate me to distraction.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on December 07, 2013:

Denise - Thanks for checking this out. You've been busy, haven't you? Your husband probably has noise induced tinnitus. That's one of the more common types. That idea of mine about WiFi being another cause is questionable. I wish some agency of authority would do research on it. I wonder if we'll ever get an answer to that one.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on December 07, 2013:

My husband has tinnitus. He is a former band director, trumpet player, and worked in the oil field as a youth. We think that part of his problem is the loud sounds of being around and playing in bands. The oil field machinery he worked around in his younger days also seems to have affected his hearing mechanisms. He says that it is a constant issue now that he is older. He currently works as a school administrator and the WiFi is always present as well.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 08, 2013:

Pamela99 - Your doctors were honest with you, saying that there is no treatment. The American Tinnitus Association once told me at one of their meetings that if a cure is ever discovered, they would let us know. There are so many out there who claim to know how to treat it. I know, because I experienced the lies first hand.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 07, 2013:

I have tinnites, but no vertigo. I have had it a long time and doctors have told me there is not treatment. Thanks for writing about this topic.