What is Bilateral Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears when there is no external noise present. It can often sound like ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or humming. Bilateral tinnitus is when a person experiences tinnitus in both ears, which is the most common. Unilateral tinnitus is when a person experiences tinnitus in only one ear, which is less common.
Tinnitus is often a symptom of an underlying condition such as age- or noise-related hearing loss or ear injury. Around 15-20% of people are affected by tinnitus to some capacity. Tinnitus can become a chronic condition, lasting for years. It can also be situational, lasting for a few hours such as the case when a person experiences ringing after a loud concert.
If you are able to identify root causes for your tinnitus, treating the underlying condition could help alleviate your tinnitus. However, many people who have tinnitus may not be able to identify the exact cause of their tinnitus. There are still treatments available to help distract and alleviate the tinnitus.
Types of Tinnitus
Subjective Tinnitus: Subjective tinnitus is the most common tinnitus people experience and occurs when you are the only person who can hear the sound. No other person can hear the noise despite how loud it may sound to you.
Objective Tinnitus: Objective tinnitus occurs if a condition that impacts the mechanical structures near the ear such as high blood pressure, a middle ear bone condition, or a muscle contraction. This type of tinnitus can be heard by a doctor during an ear examination. It is less common than subjective tinnitus.
Pulsatile Tinnitus: Pulsatile tinnitus is when you hear a rhythmic noise such as a heartbeat, swooshing, or whooshing. It is often related to blood vessels coupled by fluid in your ear drum. In rare cases, it can be caused by more serious problems such as aneurysms or hardening of the arteries.
Causes of Tinnitus
There are a variety of different causes to bilateral tinnitus. However, as mentioned previously, many people will not be able to identify the exact cause of their tinnitus.
A common cause of tinnitus and hearing loss is inner ear hair cell damage. To register sound, there are several actions happening inside your ear. Sound travels through your ear canal and causes fluid in your ears to vibrate. These vibrations are picked up by hair-like sensory cells in your inner ear and are translated into electrical signals. These electrical signals are then picked up by the auditory nerve and are finally sent to the brain, where it’s processed as sound. If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken, they can “leak” random electrical impulses to your brain, causing tinnitus.
Some other common causes of tinnitus are:
Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis): As people age, their hearing ability usually starts deteriorating. Older adults aged 60+ tend to experience bilateral high frequency hearing loss, and this explains partly why many elderly adults have tinnitus.
Exposure to loud noise: Repeated exposure to loud noise can damage our inner ear, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss and/or tinnitus, ringing in the ear. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), repeated exposure to noise above 85 decibels is dangerous and can lead to hearing loss. For your reference, 85 decibels is the sound of heavy city traffic or a lawnmower.
Earwax buildup: When too much earwax accumulates inside the ear, it’s harder to wash away naturally, which can cause irritation of the eardrum or hearing loss, which can then result in tinnitus.
Ear bone changes: Stiffening of the bones in your middle ear may affect your hearing and cause tinnitus. This condition is caused by abnormal bone growth and tends to be genetic.
Less common causes of tinnitus are:
- Meniere’s disease
- TMJ disorders
- Head injuries or neck injuries
- Acoustic neuroma
- Eustachian tube dysfunction
- Muscle spasms in the inner ear.
It is important to be proactive in protecting and maintaining your hearing health. Loud noise exposure can be very damaging, so make sure that you are doing what you can to minimize risks for hearing loss such as wearing ear plugs at loud events and keeping volume levels at a safe level. Here are some of AudioCardio’s recommended high-fidelity earplugs for loud events.
It is also recommended that you take care of your cardiovascular health to help prevent tinnitus linked to blood vessel disorders. If you are experiencing tinnitus symptoms, please consult a doctor or hearing professional to take a hearing test and explore your options.
AudioCardio is a technology company focused on hearing health and wellness. Learn how AudioCardio can help maintain and strengthen your hearing with your favorite headphones or hearing aids at www.audiocardio.com.