DO I HAVE TINNITUS?

Have you ever heard a ringing in your ears? If so, you have experienced tinnitus. Tinnitus can be annoying, inconvenient, or even painful for the many people who suffer from it. Interestingly, some people never really notice symptoms of tinnitus, even though they are experiencing it. Recent research indicates that people have varying experiences of tinnitus, and these symptoms originate in the brain, not the ears.

A study done at the University of Illinois found that the brains of people with tinnitus hear sounds differently than those who don’t have tinnitus. Even among tinnitus sufferers, there are differences the way peoples’ brains process sound.

What Exactly is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is actually just a symptom (not a disorder or disease). There are a lot of different causes of tinnitus, like noise exposure or use of ototoxic medications (medications that cause hearing loss). Approximately 25 million people across America are affected by tinnitus. There is no cure for tinnitus, and it is often temporary. It’s important to understand how to manage it and lessen its effects, or if possible, prevent it entirely.

Tinnitus Can be Affected by Your Feelings

Recent studies have found that the brain’s blood oxygen levels can change when exposed to different types of noise. Researchers discovered differences in the way tinnitus sufferer’s brains processed sound compared with non-tinnitus sufferers. “Good” sounds, like laughter, were presented, along with “neutral” and “unpleasant” sounds.

The Brain and Emotions

People with tinnitus engage with sounds differently in their brains, which can trigger emotion. Not so with people without tinnitus. The study also found that tinnitus sufferers who complain the most process emotional noise in different parts of the brain than the people who did not think the symptoms were bothersome.

This can explain why some people are very bothered by tinnitus, and others are not. This shows that the symptoms distress some people more than others.

Insomnia. irritability, depression, mood swings, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts have been reportedly caused by tinnitus. Some people merely report it as a minor irritant or even say it doesn’t trouble them at all. The people who are less bothered by tinnitus generally process emotion in the brain’s frontal lobe, while others process emotions in the brain’s amygdala.

Treatment Options for Tinnitus

This study helps explain why tinnitus is more bothersome to some people and not others. It may also help scientists to come up with more effective treatments that can target the cause of this suffering.

Hearing loss and tinnitus are often connected, but even people with normal hearing can have tinnitus. If you begin to experience tinnitus symptoms a trip to your audiologist is a good idea, and may help to prevent hearing loss. Hearing technology with sound therapy tools are shown to help ease the symptoms of tinnitus and hearing aids can also be an option for those who suffer from hearing loss and tinnitus.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening. We can discuss hearing aid options with you and work with you to find one that fits your needs and budget.

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.