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How to Know if You Are at Risk of Developing Tinnitus

by Roel van Gorkum
| September 9, 2022

Tinnitus is a condition that changes lives–find out what factors might put you at risk of developing this condition.

Developing tinnitus can happen at any time, and this is one condition that can come with a surprising influence on your life. With how common this condition is, you might be wondering if you are at risk yourself. In this article, we are going to discuss risk factors associated with tinnitus and what to do if you suspect you have tinnitus.

Who is at Risk of Developing Tinnitus?

Tinnitus impacts 750 million people around the world. Since so many people do develop this condition, it is only natural to wonder if you might be at risk of developing tinnitus—especially if others in your family have it. Let’s take a closer look at what might put you at risk of developing tinnitus. 

Can Anyone Get Tinnitus?

With many medical conditions, there are certain qualifiers that determine whether or not someone can end up with it. For example, you can’t get appendicitis if you have already had your appendix taken out. You might wonder if tinnitus is a risk to you at all, especially if you know people with it. 

The reality is that there are many different factors that can lead a person to develop tinnitus—and these factors are common in daily life. This condition does not have any specific requirements in order for it to happen to someone. Anyone can end up being diagnosed with tinnitus, which is likely why it impacts so many people around the world. 

Are Some People at Higher Risk of Developing Tinnitus?

Though anyone can indeed develop tinnitus, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it always happens at random. While anyone can develop tinnitus, some people are significantly more likely to develop this condition. 

Tinnitus can happen with no warning or clearly defined cause, but not all cases are random. You can be at higher risk of developing tinnitus based on a variety of lifestyle conditions. People with certain careers and specific medical conditions can be at an elevated risk of developing tinnitus. Sometimes, tinnitus does have a cause. This explains why more than 60% of veterans returning from active war zones report having tinnitus.   

Careers Associated with Tinnitus:

  • Musicians
  • Performance arts
  • Military
  • Police force
  • Construction
  • Home renovation and contracting
  • Machinists

What Puts You at Risk of Developing Tinnitus?

Since it is possible for tinnitus to happen as a direct result of certain lifestyle factors or events, you might wonder what risks you could be exposed to. How likely is it that you will personally develop tinnitus—and what might be putting you at risk of developing this condition? 

Hearing Loss

Those who already have clear indications that they have experienced ear damage can be at a higher risk of developing tinnitus. Since tinnitus is often caused by the kind of damage that can also lead to hearing loss, it is not uncommon to see some overlap. While it is completely possible to experience hearing loss and not develop tinnitus, some see hearing loss as an indicator that tinnitus might also show up down the line.

Depending on the nature of your hearing loss, you might or might not be at risk of developing this condition. Someone who is born with hearing loss might not have the same risk factors that can lead to tinnitus. However, those who develop hearing loss over time might also be at risk of developing tinnitus due to the lifestyle factors that led to it.

Exposure to Loud Noises

Loud noises can be a fairly unpleasant surprise for many of us–but for others, exposure to loud noises is a part of life. If you are the kind of person who is constantly exposed to loud noises, you are considered at a higher risk for developing tinnitus. This is because loud noises can lead to ear damage, increasing the likelihood of tinnitus. The World Health Organization recommends keeping environmental noises below 70 dBA.

It is important to understand that the nature of these noises really doesn’t matter. While some noises might place you at a higher risk than others, exposure to loud noises is commonly associated with both hearing loss and tinnitus. If any noise is loud enough, it puts your ears at risk–even if it isn’t the loudest noise that you have ever been exposed to.

Common Noise Concerns Include:

  • Concerts
  • Heavy machinery
  • Exposure to speakers
  • Loud music in headphones
  • Loud music while driving
  • Gunshots and weaponry
  • Certain natural features (waterfalls, tunnels, etc.)

Faulty Products

While you might be able to mitigate your own personal exposure to loud noises regularly, sometimes this isn’t an option–and you might not even realize it. The risk of loud noises is highly publicized, and it is a unique concern for medical professionals. We know that loud noises are dangerous for our bodies, which is why we have an entire market built around hearing protection. Unfortunately, this market is not the most reliable.

Products that are designed to protect your ears play a valuable role. We use them in workshops. We use them in shooting ranges. Many of us even use them at home while working on DIY projects. These products are very important–but they are not all made equally. 

When you decide to invest in hearing protection, chances are that you trust what the package says. These devices will often tell you what kind of protection they offer. Sadly, they don’t always perform. Military personnel, law enforcement personnel, and those who work around loud machines rely on these products to keep them safe on the job. However, many find themselves learning later that the products that promised protection did not actually work correctly. 

Sometimes you might end up with a faulty set, while other products simply don’t live up to their claims. Regardless, relying on these products can put you at risk of hearing loss and tinnitus down the line. Try to search for hearing protection that comes with certifications specific to your local area. While you might end up paying more and your protection is not always guaranteed, it is always better to be safe than sorry. You can find quality hearing protection online and at your local hardware stores. Be sure to wear high-rated hearing protection any time you will be around loud noises!

Medical Causes of Tinnitus

Tinnitus can occur as a direct result of many different factors, but not all of them are related to lifestyle. There are a surprising number of medical reasons that a person might end up with tinnitus. Some of them are considered lasting, while others can be temporary. Having an open line of communication with your medical provider and speaking up when necessary can really help you to better understand this condition and possibly alleviate it with a fairly simple fix.

Medical Conditions

There are roughly 200 known medical conditions that can lead to tinnitus. With time, it seems likely that more will be discovered, especially as the nature of treating certain conditions changes. It is well-known that certain conditions can put you at a higher risk of developing tinnitus, but there is one common condition that many people experience around the world: high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a condition that is often associated with tinnitus. In this case, tinnitus is often a side effect of high blood pressure itself. The tinnitus blood pressure connection can happen seemingly out of nowhere. While this can be frustrating, it is also fairly good news. For many people, it means that treating high blood pressure can make it possible to treat tinnitus entirely. When it comes to high blood pressure, the ringing of tinnitus is more like warning bells.

Other Medical Conditions Associated with Tinnitus Include:

  • Ear infections
  • Excessive earwax buildup
  • Otosclerosis 
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Brain tumors
  • Bodily injury
  • Hormonal changes

Medication

The medication market is expansive, especially if you include the secondary market for supplements. Most adults have taken medication at some point in their lives. We use medication to treat other conditions, but it is a well-known fact that many medications come with side effects of their own. More than 200 medications are known to have tinnitus as a potential side effect.

Tinnitus that has been formed as a byproduct of medication use can be frustrating. While you are working to fix one problem, you suddenly find yourself with a completely different problem. The good news is that tinnitus that has been caused by medication can often be treated by lowering the medication dose or stopping the medication entirely. If it is not possible to lower the medication, there may be other medication options that can be used to curb this side effect if it is bad enough.

Common Medication Types Associated with Tinnitus Include:

  • NSAIDs
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Antidepressants
  • Antibiotics
  • Ace inhibitors 
  • Diuretics

Physical Damage

When our inner ears experience damage, tinnitus is always a potential outcome. The system that exists within our ears is fairly complex, and everything has to run smoothly in order to operate correctly. Physical damage can cause disruptions in the system, ultimately leading to problems like tinnitus and hearing loss. Damage of this nature can be the direct result of exposure to loud noises, incorrectly cleaning ears, or even accidents near the area.

Mental Health

Our mental health is one of the most important aspects of our bodies, though we often think of it as secondary to our physical health. You might be surprised to learn how much your mental health can actually impact your physical health directly. These two forms of health are often more intertwined than we think–and we see this with tinnitus.

Tinnitus can form as the direct result of certain mental health conditions. In fact, we often demonstrate this in film during periods of high anxiety or when someone experiences a panic attack. Suddenly, other sounds will fade and there is a distinct focus on a ringing noise. This is anxiety-induced tinnitus.

Common Mental Health Conditions Associated with Tinnitus Include:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Overstimulation 

What Should You Do if You Suspect You Have Tinnitus?

Knowing that you are at risk of developing tinnitus can help you to keep an eye out for potential symptoms. If you feel like you are developing tinnitus, you might be wondering what next steps you should take. Most of us experience the occasional ringing in the ears, but if you are the kind of person who is hearing it more regularly–or if this sound has become a constant companion for you, it is a good idea to take action. Tinnitus often causes stress for those who have it, so getting care sooner rather than later is always a good idea.

Contact a Medical Professional

Tinnitus is a medical condition, so if you believe that you are developing it or are currently experiencing tinnitus, you will want to consult a medical professional. You can start by bringing these concerns up to your primary care physician, who will be able to provide you with resources and recommend further testing if necessary. Your primary care physician can help to set you up with an audiologist, who will be able to confirm the presence of tinnitus.

Explore Treatment Options

Unless you are completely unbothered by your tinnitus, you will want to look into treatment options. Many of us find that tinnitus can be draining, especially as more time passes. Knowing what treatment options are available can offer you peace of mind and help you to get started on managing your tinnitus. 

Popular Treatment Options

Tinnitus is a unique condition, and there are many unique approaches available to treat it. Some of these options will work for some people with tinnitus, while others might benefit from a different variety. Everyone is unique.

Common Treatment Options for Tinnitus:

  • Masking and white noise machines
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Hearing aids

Our Method

Medical professionals play an invaluable role in helping us to understand tinnitus, but there is still a lot of misinformation surrounding this condition.  At Still Tinnitus, I have made it my goal to create a dedicated method that includes a variety of clinically-proven research to yield lasting results. Like you, I wanted to get my tinnitus under control. My signature method combines different therapeutic approaches and tinnitus exercises to help you be tinnitus-free now and in the future too!

Conclusion

The truth is that most of us come in contact with risk factors associated with tinnitus, but not all of us will develop it. Knowing the risks and understanding what signs to look for can help you to navigate this condition with more ease. If you suspect that you have tinnitus, it might be time to have the tinnitus talk with your primary care doctor to schedule a tinnitus test.

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Roel van Gorkum Founder of Still Tinnitus

About me

I was suffering badly from the ringing in my ears. I battled and battled – only to make it worse. Then, I started learning and developed a solution. Now, I help others find tinnitus relief.

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