Tinnitus is undoubtedly one of the most frustrating health conditions that anybody could encounter. While most people will experience the symptoms from time to time, repeated problems can have a major impact on your quality of life. Could allergies be the source of your troubles? Here’s everything you need to know about allergy and tinnitus conditions.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a common health condition that James A. Henry describes as “an increasing health concern across all strata of the general population” in his General Review of Tinnitus. It is commonly characterized by a ringing in the ears but ultimately covers a wide range of sounds such as clicking, hissing, or buzzing. The key feature is that the noises occur despite the lack of any external sound source.
In addition to the noises, often referred to as phantom sounds, tinnitus can impact a person’s sense of balance and pressure within the ears. Tinnitus can occur in either ear or both ears simultaneously and is estimated to impact 50 million Americans.
Can tinnitus be caused by allergies?
The likelihood of experiencing tinnitus dramatically increased as you get older, not least because it is often linked to your brain attempting to fill in the voids that it doesn’t hear due to hearing loss. However, age-related tinnitus is far from the only reason why you may have ringing in the ears. If you experience coexisting allergy and tinnitus, there is a strong chance that they are connected.
Allergies impact around 50 million Americans too and often affect your throat or nose, which are joined in the ENT system by the ears. So, it should be no surprise that allergic tinnitus, otherwise known as allergic tinnitus or allergy-induced tinnitus, is a condition.
How can allergies cause tinnitus?
Allergies happen because the body reacts to (ordinarily harmless) substances like pollen and dust. The body will subsequently release antibodies, including immunoglobin E, which can cause the common symptoms of sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal congestion. It can also lead to fluid being released in the ears, which can cause blockages. When combined with the irritation of the allergies, tinnitus symptoms can worsen.
Tinnitus often surfaces when the pressure in the inner or middle ear changes. This could be caused by several allergies like allergic rhinitis, sinus infections, ear infections, eustachian tube dysfunction, clogged ears. In Tinnitus: Diagnosis and Treatment, Jack L. Pulec et al. also identify otologic allergies as a common link.
What are the Risk Factors for Allergy-Induced Tinnitus?
Risk factors for allergic tinnitus that causes ringing in ears may include pollen, dust mites, pet hair, and mold. While most individuals will not be at risk of all possible risk factors, any of the foreign items that could cause allergies could lead to allergy-induced tinnitus. This covers all of the above allergies like sinus infections.
Ultimately, if the body’s natural responses result in irritation to the ears, it is likely that tinnitus will surface as a direct upshot. Meanwhile, anyone that is already known to experience tinnitus is likely to see the symptoms surface at this time.
Treatment for allergy-induced tinnitus
The best treatment for allergy-induced tinnitus is to treat the allergies. By removing the allergies, it should reduce both the symptoms of the allergic reactions and the experiences of tinnitus.
It can be achieved in several ways. As per ScienceDirect, research by Narges Dargahi et al. found that probiotics have “been shown to alter immune responses” and can help fight allergies. Other treatments include actively avoiding pollen, dust, or whatever is causing the allergy as well as antihistamines, steroid creams, and immunotherapy.
Can allergies cause hearing loss?
In addition to tinnitus, allergies can be linked to hearing loss. Allergy-related hearing loss can impact the hearing in the inner, middle, and outer ear while it is also linked to Menière’s Disease. While not necessarily an underlying cause of hearing loss itself, allergies will often make the symptoms more noticeable both in terms of frequency and strength.
Furthermore, allergies can cause pain in the ears due to inflammation and infections. When left untreated (or managed incorrectly), this can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss. Most commonly, it will be described as a muffled sound.
How to treat hearing loss caused by allergies?
The good news is that most cases of allergy-induced hearing loss are temporary. Experts at HealthyHearing.com explain that ”conductive hearing loss occurs when something, such as fluid or earwax, prevents sound waves from flowing through the ear”. Thankfully, this type of hearing loss is curable. Once again, treating allergies will have a massive impact too.
As for restoring healthy hearing, simple steps like yawning or washing the ear with a damp cloth may help. Meanwhile, antihistamines and inhaling menthol can help reduce the pressure in the middle ear to deliver some benefits or loosen up wax and blockages that may have worsened due to allergies.
When to see a doctor?
Tinnitus is not considered a life-threatening issue and many people with minor issues do not feel the need to seek treatment. However, it can be a symptom of more serious underlying health issues. So, if you are worried about it, you should seek a non-emergency doctor’s appointment. Alternatively, if you have coexisting allergy and tinnitus, seeking medical support could identify the right treatment for both issues.
If connecting to your local doctor is difficult or dizziness makes it difficult, you can make an on-demand visit with an online doctor with DrHouse. In most cases, you can see an online doctor in as little as 15 minutes to discuss your tinnitus, allergies, and treatment plan.
While it’s rarely a sign of ill health, tinnitus can cause a major disruption to your daily activities and general happiness, especially when simultaneously living with allergy symptoms.
With the right treatment for allergy-induced tinnitus, it is possible to reduce or even remove the presence of those symptoms. An accurate diagnosis is the first step to making it happen. Download the DrHouse app today to book a consultation.
- James A. Henry, Kyle C. Dennis and Martin A. Schechter, General Review of Tinnitus, Journal of Speec h, Language, and Hearing Research, Volume 48 Issue 5 October 2005, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2005/084)
- Allergy Facts and Figures, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Available from: https://www.aafa.org/allergy-facts/
- Pulec JL, Hodell SF, Anthony PF. Tinnitus: Diagnosis and Treatment. Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology. 1978;87(6):821-833. doi:10.1177/000348947808700609
- Narges Dargahi, Joshua Johnson, Osaana Donkor, Todor Vasiljevic, Vasso Apostolopoulos, Immunomodulatory effects of probiotics: Can they be used to treat allergies and autoimmune diseases?, Maturitas, Volume 119, 2019, Pages 25-38, ISSN 0378-5122, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2018.11.002.
- Can allergies cause hearing loss? Healthy Hearing. Available from: https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/51352-Can-allergies-cause-hearing-loss