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Is Tinnitus Genetic? Causes And How To Deal

Written by Jim Duncan, MSW | Last updated:

Tinnitus often comes as a persistent ringing in your ears. If you have it, you might be wondering: Is tinnitus genetic? Short answer is yes, tinnitus can have a genetic component. Read on to learn more.

An Introduction and Tinnitus and Genetics

What do Eric Clapton, Will.i.am, and Moby have in common? Firstly, they are all musicians. Secondly, they all belong to the same club of musicians who have developed tinnitus (pronounced like tin-nuh-tus). Finally, they’re a group of people particularly prone to the condition due to their work environment, and odds are, some got tinnitus thanks to their genetics.

A lot of us have been to concerts where the music was head-poundingly loud. We’ve come home with ears ringing due to 100 decibels of sound for two or more solid hours. We’ve done it numerous times, in fact, but the vast majority of us don’t have tinnitus.

So, what is it exactly, and why do only a few of us develop the condition? Is tinnitus genetic? Let’s explore this here.

What Is Tinnitus?

Before addressing the question if tinnitus is genetic, let’s first review what it is. Tinnitus is the perception of noise in the absence of external sound. In essence, you hear a sound that no one else can. It may vary in volume, pitch, duration, and location [1, 2].

The way you may hear it commonly described is a persistent ringing in the ears, but it can take other forms too, like pulsing, clicking, or whooshing sounds. It can change over time, be intermittent, or permanent. It all depends.

Approximately 21 million Americans, or about 1 in 10 adults, may experience tinnitus each year, with over a quarter of those having symptoms for 15 years or longer [1, 3]. So, it’s not a rare condition.

How Long Does Tinnitus Last?

That post-concert ringing in your ears that gradually fades away after a day or two? That’s tinnitus. It’s an obvious cause with a clear effect.

As you get older, and perhaps you’ve attended 50 concerts, you might find that ringing lasts 3 or 4 days instead of 1 or 2. Perhaps you are prone to ear infections. It’s not uncommon, and over time, hearing loss may develop, and with it, the risk for tinnitus that not only comes and goes, but sticks around permanently.

So, the fact is, if you get tinnitus, how long it lasts all depends. It depends on the cause and a number of other mitigating factors. There is no specific cure for it, so your best bet is to make sure you take what actions you can to prevent it from happening.

Types of Tinnitus

There are two types of tinnitus. Either it’s subjective, meaning only you can hear it or it’s objective, where a doctor can hear it with a stethoscope.

Objective tinnitus is rare, affecting only about 1% of those with the condition. A subtype of subjective tinnitus is somatic tinnitus, that generally involves muscle/bone/nerve interactions in the head and neck area [4].

While it is often difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes a specific case of tinnitus, the following are known to be sources [5, 6, 7]:

  • Ear infections
  • Loud noise exposure
  • Age
  • Head/neck injuries
  • Tumors
  • Otosclerosis (hardening of the ear bones)
  • Certain medications

Another factor that can play a role in tinnitus is genetics. In fact, up to 40% of your chances of getting tinnitus may be attributed to genetics.

To be clear, if you have symptoms of tinnitus, you should consult a physician about it, as it likely indicates a condition that needs to be addressed.

It should also be noted that the symptoms of tinnitus should not be taken lightly. It may seem to be little more than “ringing in the ears”, so what’s the big deal, but having to deal with persistent, disruptive symptoms like this can lead to [7]:

  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Sleep problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Headaches

The problems can beget more problems, and it’s not a loop you want to be caught in. So, if you’re one of the lucky ones who can, track down the cause and treat it.

If you’re one of many who don’t know what underlying cause to treat, you can still mitigate your current symptoms. This can end up being something like hearing aids, noise machines, sound-masking devices, or therapy and medications [2, 8, 9].

You can also do your best to keep tinnitus from ever happening in the first place. As about 8% of all U.S. workers experience tinnitus, wearing hearing protection around loud noise exposure is a basic preventative measure you can take [10].

Other good practices are getting an ear infection treated right away, as well as persistent head and neck issues. It also goes without saying that you should understand how your genetics may influence your ability to deal with potential causes.

Is Tinnitus Genetic?

We know that we are our genetics. For better or worse it defines how our body was put together and how it operates and maintains itself. To that end, there are a few relevant genes that impact either getting or managing tinnitus.

  1. BDNF (primary variant: rs6265). This gene helps neuron growth and development in the brain, and is relevant to sleep, mood, and stress. Regarding tinnitus, this variant can potentially make tinnitus symptoms worse [11].
  2. MTRR (primary variant: rs1532268). This gene codes for an enzyme that helps with folate (B6) metabolism, which can also affect B12 levels. Because tinnitus can be related to nerve issues, and nerve health is affected by vitamin B12, this variant may raise your risk for tinnitus [12, 13].
  3. IL6 (primary variant: rs1800795). This gene is involved with immune response and can promote or inhibit inflammation. Because noise exposure can induce a pro-inflammatory response, this variant can make you more susceptible to tinnitus through loud noise exposure [14].
  4. SLC12A2 (primary variant: rs10089). This gene is involved in the salt-water balance of cells and its product can be found in the inner ear. The variant of this makes you more susceptible to tinnitus through loud noise exposure [15].
  5. COMT (primary variant: rs4680). This gene codes for an enzyme that helps to break down chemical messengers like dopamine and serotonin. This mechanism is involved in how you deal with pain, and the variant may make you more amenable to therapy to manage the discomfort/pain of tinnitus [16, 17].

What Can A Tinnitus Test Tell You?

If you are looking for the most comprehensive tinnitus test that tells your genetic predispositions, look no further than SelfDecode Tinnitus DNA Report.

Since tinnitus can have a genetic component, this report can help you optimize your health by uncovering what your genes are doing behind the scenes to affect your odds of developing tinnitus.

But when it comes to tinnitus and genetics, just knowing where you stand may not help you soothe your symptoms. With SelfDecode, you’ll learn how to counteract these potential risks with natural health recommendations.

The bottom line is that your gene variants can predispose you to certain conditions to a greater or lesser degree, depending on what they are. Some mutations can be benign, barely affecting your overall health, while others can have noticeable consequences.

The most direct genetic influence for tinnitus comes from the SLC12A2 gene. A study indicated that it is strongly heritable and seems to make tinnitus a more likely outcome of excessive noise exposure [15].

So, avoiding persistent, loud noise would be even more essential for you if you had this variant. Noise protection is good practice in general, as even if you aren’t more susceptible to tinnitus, you can still get hearing loss. Be practical!

But sometimes, knowing your genetics can enforce those simple, common-sense solutions, like wearing earplugs at a concert. Believe me, nobody wants that annoying ringing in your ears the next day to become a permanent fact of life.

SelfDecode is set apart from other genomics companies by analyzing over 420,000 genetic variants related to tinnitus to give you the most precise data on your personalized report.

Is tinnitus genetic

Unlike other DNA companies, SelfDecode goes a step beyond merely highlighting risk by outlining evidence-based diet, supplement, and lifestyle recommendations.

To achieve this, SelfDecode uses AI and machine learning to give you the most accurate results. With SelfDecode, you’ll receive truly personalized recommendations based on your unique genes!

Concluding Remarks About Tinnitus and Genetics

Now that you know the connection between tinnitus and genetics, hopefully, it will help you find a better way to deal with it. Tinnitus is one of those things that you typically don’t think about or consider until you actually have it, and then you must deal with managing the symptoms.

If you are here because you do have it, knowing your genetics can help you find the best ways to manage. If you are one of the lucky ones who don’t have it and are just curious to know if tinnitus is genetic, take advantage and find out where your risks lie with SelfDecode. You may thank yourself down the road.

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About the Author

Jim Duncan

Jim completed his M.S.W. in Social Work Administration at Portland State University. He has always been interested in analyzing social issues, and he helped fund and start a program against domestic violence. He has also conducted many public speaking sessions about violence against women, and published 3 fiction novels. Inspired by SelfDecode’s mission to make precision health a reality, he decided to use his natural writing ability to help teach the world about the power and promise of genomics. His areas of interest include science-based writing,  astronomy, and genomics.


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