Can dizziness indicate tinnitus? This is a common question amongst those with damage to their inner ear.
Chronic dizziness is a problem that can affect people – especially people in older age. Tinnitus is a common condition as well, affecting between 15 and 20 percent of all people. Both issues are associated with problems of the inner ear, so it’s natural to wonder if your dizziness is a symptom of tinnitus.
There’s no such thing as tinnitus dizziness. These two problems often occur together, but one is not a symptom of the other. Knowing what problems can cause dizziness and tinnitus, if you are experiencing both, can help you take care of yourself and seek treatment if needed.
What Causes Dizziness?
Body balance, including body rotation, gravitation, and movement, is monitored by the vestibular system. These senses are all produced when the hair cells in the inner ear send mismatched signals to the eighth cranial nerve, which comprises of an auditory branch and vestibular branch. When there is a disturbance in the vestibular system, dizziness can occur. While dizziness is not a disease, it can be a symptom of a disease which affects the inner ear.
Many things can cause dizziness. Medications, a sudden change in blood pressure or fluid pressure, ear infection, sinus infections, even just a bad cold can cause dizziness.
Is Dizziness a Symptom of Tinnitus?
Tinnitus and dizziness are closely associated with each other, because they are both symptoms of problems that occur with the inner ear. These problems often occur together, at the same time or around the same time. Dizziness is not a symptom of tinnitus, because tinnitus is itself is a symptom of other conditions. People who experience tinnitus may also experience dizziness. Both problems often have the same root cause.
One such example is Ménière’s disease. This is a condition that affects the hearing organ. During an attack, balance breaks down, and patients experience, among other symptoms, dizziness and tinnitus. One is not causing the other – both are being caused by Ménière’s disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Tinnitus?
Most of the time, tinnitus is characterized by ringing in the ears. Tinnitus can also take other forms. Mayo Clinic describes tinnitus as “phantom noises” and goes on to say that patients can experience anything from clicking to humming, ringing, buzzing or roaring. Usually, the noise is continuous and in the background.
Most patients who experience tinnitus hear a noise that no one else can hear. Some patients, however, hear a noise that can be detected by a doctor during an examination.
What Conditions Cause Both Tinnitus and Dizziness?
Tinnitus and dizziness are caused by a variety of chronic conditions. As already mentioned, Ménière’s disease can cause both problems to occur at the same time. There are others. For example:
- Head and neck injuries. Trauma to the head and neck can affect the inner ear, thus causing dizziness and tinnitus, depending on the injury. For example, 20 to 60% of patients with whiplash experience dizziness, while 15 to 20% of patients with whiplash experience tinnitus.
- Eustachian tube dysfunction. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the upper throat. Dysfunction of this tube can disrupt your sense of balance and may cause tinnitus.
- Muscle spasms inside the ear. When muscles in the inner ear start to squeeze up or become tense, you might experience pain, tinnitus and feelings of vertigo.
- Acoustic neuroma. This is a type of noncancerous tumor of the nerve that runs from the brain to the inner ear. Over 80% of patients with this condition experience tinnitus in one ear, while between 35% and 75% of patients experience mild feelings of vertigo.
- Blockages. Sinus infections and allergies can cause blockages in the ear, leading to a variety of symptoms including dizziness and tinnitus. Blockages caused by objects stuck in the ear or a buildup of earwax can also have the same effect.
What Are the Treatments for Tinnitus?
There are no treatments for tinnitus. If the condition that causes tinnitus can be treated, then the tinnitus itself will likely go away. For example, tinnitus caused by a blockage in the ear is often temporary. If the blockage is removed, then the tinnitus will stop.
However, if the cause of the tinnitus cannot be cured, then the tinnitus may be permanent. There are many ways to manage tinnitus, even if the condition does not go away with time.
Manage the Stress
Stress is a common problem for people experiencing tinnitus, but seeing a therapist can help. Some people with tinnitus spend time meditating, others practice journaling or engage in arts and crafts to regulate their mood.
Eating and sleeping well can improve overall health, which can help some people overcome the condition that caused the tinnitus in the first place. Staying healthy also helps patients suffering from tinnitus feel less anxiety, because good health and low stress often go hand in hand.
Use a Hearing Aid
Hearing aids are often prescribed for people with tinnitus because hearing loss and tinnitus are commonly experienced together. Hearing aids can help real sounds in the environment stand out, drawing attention away from the constant background noise.
Take Appropriate Medication
Some people with tinnitus turn to medication, not because of the tinnitus but because of the frustration, anxiety and unhappiness that can stem from tinnitus. Medications that help regulate mood and anxiety can improve quality of life and help some patients overcome depression resulting from their condition.
When Should You See an Audiologist?
Although there is no cure for tinnitus, this does not mean that there’s no reason to see an audiologist. Tinnitus is a symptom of other conditions, as is dizziness. Tinnitus can occur because of damage to the ear, a blockage or even because of certain medications. Sometimes seeing a knowledgeable doctor can help uncover a cure for whatever chronic problem is causing tinnitus.
Even if tinnitus is with you for the rest of your life, an audiologist can suggest strategies and prescribe hearing aids that may help. If you do purchase a hearing aid, purchase a model that is appropriate for your condition and of good quality. Your audiologist can help you with this decision.
1. HealthyHearing.com, Dizziness – https://www.healthyhearing.com/help/tinnitus/dizziness-and-hearing-loss
2. Scholarpedia.org, Vestibular System – http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Vestibular_system
3. Medical University of South Carolina, Dizziness – https://muschealth.org/medical-services/geriatrics-and-aging/healthy-aging/dizziness
6. SciTiMed Publishing Group, Vertigo Due to Eustachian Tube Dysfunction – https://scitemed.com/article/172/scitemed-aohns-2017-00017
7. MedicineNet.com, Dizziness, Headache, Muscle Cramps Or Spasms (Painful) And Tenderness To Touch – – https://www.medicinenet.com/dizziness_headache_muscle_cramps_or_spasms_painful_and_tenderness_to_touch/multisymptoms.htm
8. Acoustic Neuroma Association of Canada, Understanding Vertigo in Vestibular Schwannomas – https://www.anac.ca/member-article/2018/04/06/understanding-vertigo-in-vestibular-schwannomas
11. Tinnitus Journal, Tinnitus in Whiplash Injury – https://www.tinnitusjournal.com/articles/tinnitus-in-whiplash-injury.pdf
12. Dizziness and Balance, Vertigo and Hearing Symptoms After Whiplash – https://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/disorders/post/whiplash.html