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Does Tinnitus Cause Hearing Loss?

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Medically Reviewed by Lilach Saperstein, AuD on January 27, 2021
Tinnitus affects millions of Americans, mostly above the age of 40. Find out if it leads to hearing loss.

If you have ever experienced a ringing, buzzing or whooshing in your ears, it is most likely due to tinnitus. Tinnitus can be caused by something as simple as wax blocking your ear. But according to the National Institute on Aging, it may also indicate the first signs of hearing loss in older adults.  

Tinnitus and Hearing Loss: Everything You Need to Know

Hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with your hearing system, according to Harvard Health Publishing. This error happens when the delicate hair cells inside your ears get damaged and are unable to send sounds to the brain, resulting in hearing loss.

According to the National Institute on Aging, the underlying cause for tinnitus is the same as the cause of hearing loss. The damaged hair cells inside the ear send the wrong signals to the brain, which results in the ringing or buzzing sound that you hear. Tinnitus is not a cause but a symptom of hearing loss, according to Harvard Health. Both can have similar triggers, which is why you may experience both at the same time. These triggers include:

  • Injury to the ear
  • Degradation of hair cells in the ear due to natural aging
  • Blockage due to ear wax
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Middle ear diseases
  • Meniere’s syndrome
  •  Abnormal bone growth
  • Trauma to the head or neck that affects the ear

Tinnitus can also be caused by other factors that do not lead to hearing loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. These include: 

  • Medication, particularly antibiotics, cancer medication or high doses of aspirin
  • Blood vessel disorders
  • Stress
  • High blood pressure.  

If you develop tinnitus, it is important that you visit a healthcare professional to find out what is causing it. Your doctor will ask you to undergo a hearing test to check if the tinnitus is associated with hearing loss. If hearing loss is detected, your doctor can suggest several treatment options that will help you cope with the tinnitus.

“Hearing aids often help patients who suffer from tinnitus as a byproduct of their high frequency hearing loss,” Shannon Basham, AuD, senior director of audiology and education at Phonak in Illinois, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

While tinnitus can not be cured, there are ways to manage the bothersome sound by relieving stress, introducing pleasant sounds into your environment, and managing hearing loss if it is present.

Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed.

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.