Tinnitus, more commonly called “ringing in the ears”, is the result of many possible ear problems and can get worse over time. Since the most common reasons for tinnitus involve damage to an organ inside of the ear that is responsible for sending sound signals to the brain, tinnitus getting worse or louder can indicate a worsening condition. It might also get louder if you’ve consumed something or done something to aggravate an existing injury or condition.
Let’s look at the most common reasons for tinnitus and why these conditions might cause your tinnitus to get worse or leave you vulnerable to other triggers that make it seem louder than normal. Removing these triggers may be an effective tinnitus cure for you.
Conditions in Which Tinnitus Might Get Worse or Louder
As far as medical conditions that cause tinnitus go, there are too many to name here. However, most of them cause one of the following problems:
Damage to the hearing organs (organ of Corti)
Damage to the hearing mechanism (ear drum or middle ear)
Damage to the organ of Corti can ultimately cause hearing loss. As we experience hearing loss, we begin to experience the most common symptom of the condition – tinnitus. Tinnitus getting worse or tinnitus getting louder can be an indication that any damaged cells are beginning to die and therefore sending more vibrant (but false) signals to the brain, which interprets them as “sounds”.
Tinnitus getting louder can also indicate that the condition is worsening and that more cells on the membrane that detects sound (organ of Corti) are starting to fail, become damaged, or die. This is often the case with age-related hearing loss.
Damage to the ear drum or middle ear can cause tinnitus to get worse over time, as scar tissue builds up and impedes normal hearing.
Ear infections cause an imbalance of both pressure and moisture in the inner ear and middle ear. Ear infections that are getting worse can cause tinnitus to get worse. Blood pressure that increases can cause tinnitus to get worse as well.
Sinus congestion can cause tinnitus to get worse in the same way – vacuum and pressurizing effects by the sinus tube that connects to the inner ear has an effect on what the ear “detects” as sound.
Medications that Can Make Tinnitus Worse
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, there are over 200 medications that can cause tinnitus or cause tinnitus to get worse. Many of these medications have an effect on the cochlea and are known to medical experts as “ototoxic medications”. Additionally, some medications only cause tinnitus to get worse when taken in combination with other prescription drugs.
Ototoxic medications can cause tinnitus that starts at a high frequency and progresses to a lower frequency. They also cause hearing loss, which is why anyone already experiencing ringing in the ears might find that their tinnitus is getting worse. Some people will experience new tinnitus sounds that continue to get worse as they take more of the medication.
Medications that can cause tinnitus to get louder or get worse include some antibiotics, topical ear drops, diuretics that affect potassium levels, cancer drugs, salicylates, quinine based medications, and many others. Aspirin is also known to cause worsening tinnitus in some people.
Activities that Can Make Tinnitus Worse
Loud music can cause lasting tinnitus due to ear damage, but it can also cause existing tinnitus to get worse. Reverberations of sounds that are loud can be repeatedly sent to the brain for interpretation by damage cilia and cells that detect these sounds. Damaged cells can repeatedly send sound signals anyway, so adding a loud noise only works to intensify this effect.
Strenuous exercise can cause tinnitus to temporarily get worse, but it will usually subside within a few hours. New injuries can also cause people to experience tinnitus that is getting worse, including loud noise exposure, TMJ, whiplash, and others. Eating the wrong foods can cause tinnitus to get worse, too. Some experts advise that tinnitus sufferers avoid aspartame (sugar replacement) and some seasonings that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG).
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