Factors that can trigger or worsen tinnitus include earwax buildups, medication side effects, and loud noises, such as factory machinery or concerts. Steps such as wearing hearing protection can reduce or limit some triggers.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound, typically in the absence of any objective, external noise.

People often describe it as a ringing noise in the ears. For some individuals, tinnitus may start or worsen in response to certain triggers.

This article lists six potential tinnitus triggers and offers advice on when to speak with a doctor about tinnitus.

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Loud noise exposure can contribute to temporary and permanent tinnitus. People who may be vulnerable to this trigger include:

  • military personnel
  • musicians
  • people attending concerts or sporting events
  • people working in noisy factories

Individuals cannot always avoid loud environments, particularly if their job involves exposure to noise. However, the following tips may help individuals limit hearing damage and reduce the risk of tinnitus due to loud noises:

  • wear hearing protection to protect against noise in loud environments
  • keep volume levels low when listening to music, especially when wearing headphones or earbuds
  • move away from loud sounds wherever possible

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, a buildup of earwax can irritate the eardrum, triggering tinnitus.

Healthcare professionals may use the following methods to remove built-up earwax:

  • earwax softeners, such as oil drops
  • irrigation — flushing the wax out using water
  • using a vacuum to suck out the wax

Individuals should speak with a healthcare professional before attempting to remove earwax on their own, as some home removal methods can cause damage to the ears.

According to a 2020 review, some evidence suggests that nasal allergies or allergic rhinitis can affect the eustachian tubes that connect the middle ear to the back of the nose.

The resulting eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD) can trigger symptoms, including tinnitus.

However, the reviewers note that further research is necessary to better understand the relationship between allergies, EDT, and tinnitus.

A 2023 mini-review describes a circular relationship between tinnitus and stress. The authors suggest emotional stress can cause or worsen tinnitus, while tinnitus itself appears to worsen stress.

In a 2018 study involving 180 participants with tinnitus, 65% of the participants experienced stress symptoms.

The study also associated increases in tinnitus severity with a corresponding increase in stress, potentially due to participants’ frustrations surrounding their tinnitus symptoms.

According to Tinnitus UK, some people may find that tinnitus is more noticeable at night when there is less background noise.

Nighttime tinnitus can interfere with sleep, which can then trigger stress and anxiety. A person may then find themselves in a vicious cycle of fatigue and stress, which makes them even more aware of their tinnitus.

A 2022 study investigated a possible association between hypertension and auditory issues, such as hearing loss and tinnitus.

The prevalence of tinnitus was significantly higher among participants with hypertension compared to those without. Of those with hypertension, 44.5% had tinnitus; of those without, 22.8% had tinnitus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following factors can increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure:

According to the American Tinnitus Association, various medications can trigger tinnitus, including

In many cases, the tinnitus subsides once a person stops taking the medication. However, people should not stop taking their medication without their doctor’s approval.

Anyone who is concerned that a prescription drug may be triggering their tinnitus should notify their prescribing doctor. If possible, the doctor may recommend swapping the medication or altering the dosage.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), a person should consider speaking with a doctor if they experience any of the following:

  • constant or frequent tinnitus
  • worsening tinnitus
  • tinnitus that interferes with sleep or concentration
  • tinnitus that causes anxiety or depression

There is currently no cure for subjective tinnitus. However, a doctor will work to identify the cause of the tinnitus and provide appropriate treatment or management strategies.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound, usually in the absence of any external noise. Tinnitus triggers are things that can cause symptoms to start or worsen.

Some common tinnitus triggers include loud noises, stress, and allergies. Certain medications can also cause or trigger tinnitus as a side effect.

Anyone who experiences frequent, constant, or worsening tinnitus should consider speaking with a doctor to determine the cause.

People should also contact a doctor if tinnitus begins to interfere with their day-to-day life or starts to affect their mental health.