Most—as many as 95%—of people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. But not all people with hearing loss have tinnitus (about 50% of people with hearing loss have tinnitus).
Although we do not always know the exact cause, it is largely accepted that sensorineural hearing loss (loss of hair cells in your cochlea or inner ear) is somehow related. But while the damaged hair cells and the resulting hearing loss is part of the tinnitus picture, it is how the brain processes—or doesn’t process—the sound that is then experienced as the ringing, buzzing, chirping, and roaring that so many with tinnitus describe. For this reason, tinnitus is happening in the brain and not in the ears.
Did hearing loss cause my tinnitus?
Noise exposure is one of the leading causes of hearing loss, which, in some, co-occurs with tinnitus as described above. From loud concerts to blasting music through earphones to power tools, few would argue that noise exposure is an increasing facet of modern living.
Head injuries are another top cause of tinnitus. The natural course of aging can leave us with diminished hearing as well. Once hearing loss occurs, it is hard or impossible to restore, so efforts to reduce noise exposure should start early. As the old adage states, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”