Tinnitus is a sensation of sound in your ears without any outside noise. You can hear other sounds, even if you only ring in one or both ears.

Tinnitus is a very common condition. A 2016 study estimated that around 10 percent of U.S. adults (about 21 million people) experienced tinnitus in the previous year, and 27 percent of these people had tinnitus for longer than 15 years. Since it’s so widespread, you may be wondering if is there is a “tinnitus gene.” The answer is: Yes, and there’s possibly more than one. However, the genetic link is just one piece of the whole puzzle.

You can learn about different causes of tinnitus and what you can do to prevent it.

For a long time, researchers have thought that tinnitus is caused by damage to a part of your ear. Many doctors would tell people that their tinnitus was a symptom of Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise or other causes. However, new research suggests that tinnitus is not always connected to Hearing loss. On top of that, some people may inherit this condition from their parents. Let’s see what the data says.

Type of tinnitus and gender

In one study, researchers discovered that some forms of tinnitus can be hereditary. They made this conclusion after studying multiple sets of identical twins in Sweden who were split up in groups based on their gender and the type of tinnitus they had. To their surprise, when analyzing men who had tinnitus in both ears (bilateral tinnitus), scientists saw the same condition in both twins in the majority of the pairs. This means that their condition developed because of genetic makeup, which is identical in twins.

Only men and people with bilateral tinnitus were seen as having the hereditary link. Different kinds of tinnitus have different causes and can be different depending on your gender.

Genetic differences

Taking it a step further, a European study uncovered a link between tinnitus and eight different genes. This was a genome-wide association study (GWAS), in which researchers collected DNA from over 170,000 people and searched for the most-often occurring gene variants. As a result, eight gene variants showed up among people with tinnitus, but not in people who don’t have this condition. The study also found that these genes were associated with Hearing loss, so it’s difficult to tell whether they may cause tinnitus directly or may cause Hearing loss, which then leads to tinnitus.

In yet another European GWAS study, researchers discovered that a gene called RCOR1 might be associated with tinnitus. Interestingly, this gene is also involved in some forms of hereditary sensorineural Hearing loss (Hearing loss related to your inner ear).

A note about race

One caveat to many tinnitus studies is that they mostly include people of European ancestry. So, what about Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)? Do they have similar tinnitus genetics? The good news is that tinnitus seems to be less common in Black people compared to white.

“It is still a significant issue in all races. We don’t know if people of different ethnicities have the same genetics. Future studies will hopefully answer this question.”

There is a link between your genetics and your susceptibility to tinnitus. Some forms of tinnitus are hereditary and only to a certain extent, according to studies. It means that there are other causes of tinnitus besides your genes.

The most common causes of ringing in the ears are listed.

Medications that cause tinnitus

Tinnitus can be caused by medications.

“It doesn’t mean you will have the same condition as your family. Not having a family with this condition doesn’t protect you. There are steps you can take to prevent the development of tinnitus, even if you don’t have it in your genes.”

Protecting against noise

Protecting your hearing is the best way to prevent tinnitus. Always wear earplugs or earmuffs when working with equipment that produces noise 85 decibels or more. Pay attention to the volume when listening to music, especially when using earbuds or headphones. Some smartphone applications can tell you the noise level of your environment and send a notification when you need hearing protection. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers a free app.

Decreasing risk from other conditions

Certain conditions that affect your blood vessels can cause tinnitus. Speak with a doctor about the best ways to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Healthy diet, regular exercise, and reducing stress will help you prevent many chronic conditions including tinnitus.

Avoiding tobacco

Smoking tobacco increases your risk for tinnitus. Quitting smoking can help. This can be difficult, but a doctor can help create a cessation plan that works for you.

Your genes could be one of the causes of tinnitus. If you have a family with tinnitus, you can prevent it by protecting your hearing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.