COULD THE SEVERITY OF TINNITUS ORIGINATE IN THE BRAIN?

Ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus, can be a debilitating problem for the millions of people who suffer in the U.S. Some who are affected by tinnitus, however, do not suffer any major symptoms. Recent studies show that a person’s experience with tinnitus originates with the brain, not the ears.

One study from the University of Illinois found that sounds are processed differently in the brains of those with tinnitus than those without it. Even among people who have tinnitus, however, there are differences between how sound is processed in the brain.

Tinnitus is more a symptom than a disease in and of itself. Another trauma or condition may be the source of the symptom, which could stem from ototoxic medications or exposure to loud noise. It is important to understand more about the causes of tinnitus, because across America it is estimated that 25 million people are affected by it. Since there is no cure but only treatments that manage symptoms, understanding how to avoid or lessen its effects will prove useful for sufferers of tinnitus.

How Emotional Sounds Affect Tinnitus

Researchers have pinpointed changes in blood oxygen levels in the brain when exposed to different types of sounds. First they looked at the differences in sound processing between people with tinnitus compared to those without it. Sounds were introduced that were considered “pleasant” (children giggling), “unpleasant” (a baby crying) or “neutral” (a bottle being opened).

Areas of the Brain and Emotions

The study found brain engagement in different areas of the brain for emotion-triggering sounds for people with tinnitus than those without. They then took the study a step further and found that people who experience worse symptoms of tinnitus processed emotional sounds in different parts of the brain than those that described their symptoms as less severe.

This helps explain why some sufferers of tinnitus describe their symptoms as very severe and others say it doesn’t bother them at all. It shows that the severity of tinnitus can vary greatly from one person to the next because the level of distress caused by the symptoms varies.

Some people say tinnitus doesn’t affect their lives, and others report consequences such as irritability, mood swings, insomnia, anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. The study showed that people who report less severe symptoms processed emotions primarily through the frontal lobe of the brain, while others processed emotions primarily in the amygdala portion of the brain.

Creating Treatment Options for Tinnitus

This research can help us to better understand why tinnitus causes more distress in some people than in others, and may lead to more effective treatment and therapy that can target the source of the distress.

Since hearing loss and tinnitus are often connected, visiting your audiologist when you begin to experience tinnitus symptoms may also help you to delay or prevent hearing damage. Sufferers of both tinnitus and hearing loss often find that hearing aids can also alleviate both issues. 

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

WELCOME SPRING – PREPARE YOUR EARS!

Spring is in the air! The weather is changing and we are already starting to enjoy blooming flowers and warmer! With the changing of seasons, we also get rainy weather, seasonal allergies, and erratic temperatures. Along with hearing aids, these changes can affect us, but we can downplay those effects.

The Weather is Changing

With changing weather, some people have a feeling of fullness in their ears. Barometric pressure changes with changes in the weather and causes this sensation of fullness, and makes the fluid in the inner ear sensitive to the weather. Seasonal allergy sufferers can experience this even more intensely.

Meniere’s disease can make the irritating symptoms even worse in the Springtime. The chambers of the inner ear can bulge and the fluid may back up. Difficulty hearing and discomfort as well as vertigo or tinnitus may sometimes result from this build-up.

Seasonal Allergies

Sinus pressure and sneezing can also result from seasonal allergies and add pressure to the inner ear. Seasonal allergies affect 40 percent of children and between 10 and 30 percent of adults. Up to 60 million Americans experience sneezing, ear pressure, sinus pressure, and itchy, watery eyes. Each of these symptoms can affect hearing temporarily.

Ear pressure can be temporarily relieved with non-prescription medications such as antihistamines and decongestants. Moderate exercise and a sensible diet of whole foods often improve these symptoms. Vegetables and fruits, like bell peppers, grapes, asparagus, watermelon, and celery serve as diuretics and promote fluid drainage.

Spring-time and Hearing Aids

Warmer, wetter weather may also affect the functionality of your hearing aids. Your hearing aids’ maintenance and care of during this time of year may also require more attention. The microphone ports can sometimes get obstructed by matter such as bee pollen. Proper cleaning of your hearing aids is important, and be sure to replace the mic port covers when needed.

Moisture from the heat, rain and humidity of spring and summer can also be introduced to your hearing aids, building up in the tubing and causing static in the receiver or microphone. Ensuring your hearing aids stay dry when going out in wet or humid weather can prevent issues.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

Simple Steps to Protect and Preserve Your Hearing

The key to preserving hearing is prevention. Once hearing function has been diminished or lost, there is no way to reverse it. Unfortunately many do not realize all of the easy things we can do to protect our hearing while we still have it. Here are a few simple steps to prevent hearing loss and protect your hearing health now, before it’s too late.

Keep the Volume Low

Many people, especially teenagers and young adults, love to listen to music using headphones. The sound quality is great and you can take your music wherever you go! Using these devices, however, make it easy to keep the volume at unsafe levels. This puts 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization.

Protect Your Ears When Loud Noises are Unavoidable

When it’s within your control, adjusting the volume is easy. Sometimes, however, you are in a position that you can’t turn the volume down and a loud noise is unavoidable. Make it a habit of carrying earplugs with you for this inevitable circumstance. Whether you’re at a loud concert, mowing the lawn or are bothered by loud construction work outside your window, ear protection can be the difference in extending your hearing health as long as possible.

Recovery Time is Important

If your ears are exposed to loud noise, especially without protection, give them quiet time to recover. If possible, step outside or away from the noise periodically for 5 minute stretches to give your ears time to rest. Research has found that after one loud night out, our ears need about 16 hours of quiet to recover.

Kick the Cotton Swabs to the Curb

Cotton swabs are a common way for people to clean the wax out of their ears, but doctors do not recommend it. A little bit of wax build-up in your ears serves an important function: wax helps to protect your ears and keep them clean by trapping dust and other particles, preventing them from entering the ear canal. Inserting a cotton swab too deep in the ear canal also risks damaging the ear drum.

Some people do have excess wax, however. If that’s you, a damp towel can gently and effectively clean out the ear canal. Wax removal solution can also be used for severe cases: it softens the wax over a period of a couple of nights, allowing the wax to flow out on its own.

Dry Ears are Happy Ears

When excess moisture is trapped in the ear canal, this can breed bacteria that may cause swimmer’s ear or ear infections. Be sure to towel-dry your ears after bathing or swimming, and if you feel water trapped in your ear, tilt your head to the side and pull on your earlobe to allow the water to flow out. If that doesn’t work, lay down on the offending side for a few minutes. The relaxation and gravity should coax the water out.

If it is an ongoing problem, custom-fit swimmers’ earplugs are also a great option, and are available for both adults and children. Make an appointment to get fitted for a pair today!

Exercise Can Improve Hearing Health

You knew that moving was good for your heart and your waistline, but who knew it was also good for your ears? Cardiovascular exercise such as walking, biking and running increases circulation to all parts of your body, including your ears. And circulation is great for your ears: it keeps them healthy and performing at top levels!

Don’t Stress Out

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) has been linked to high stress and anxiety, which fill your body with adrenaline. When this happens, your body heat, circulation and nerves take a hit, and this pressure can migrate to your inner ear, causing tinnitus symptoms.

Step Away From the Medicine

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprophen, naproxen and aspirin have been linked to hearing loss in recent studies. Many people think they are safe because they can be bought without a prescription, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have dangers. Use these medications sparingly, especially if you’ve noticed any decrease in hearing ability when using them.

Have Your Ears Checked Regularly

Regular hearing screenings can make a big difference in catching hearing loss early, and preventing further damage. Hearing loss develops slowly, so yearly check-ups with a hearing professional can let you know as soon as there is an issue.

It’s important to know if you are experiencing a decline in hearing ability, and take steps to prevent further decline, because hearing loss is linked to more serious issues such as dementia, depression and heart disease.

Do your health a favor, and make an appointment at California Hearing Center to check your hearing today!