The Tinnitus Cycle
Although the tinnitus cycle can begin with hearing loss, the condition is not exclusively an auditory problem. Tinnitus results from neurological changes within the auditory system and within the parts of the brain that influence your conscious attention and emotional state. This results in a frustrating sound that may resemble whistling, hissing, buzzing, or roaring. No single explanation applies to all cases, but the process outlined below describes a commonly accepted theory regarding what causes the tinnitus cycle to take effect.
Tinnitus most commonly results from hearing loss caused by exposure to loud or excessive noises. For this reason, people who work in careers that involve frequent exposure to loud noise, such as musicians, pilots, air traffic controllers, construction workers, military personnel, and first responders, are more likely to experience hearing loss and tinnitus. The condition can also be caused by aging, ototoxic drugs, Temporo-mandibular joint disorder (TMJ), depression, anxiety, Lyme disease, and thyroid disorders, as well as ear infections or wax in the ear.
When hearing damage upsets the natural balance of sound, it also alters neurological activity in the brain. The brain then interprets this altered activity as sound. As a result, you may experience tinnitus, which can take the form of whistling, ringing, buzzing, or roaring, amongst many other sounds.
Typically, everyday sounds cover up background neurological activity. When a person suffers from constant tinnitus, background noise may sometimes mask the sound. However, when it is quiet, the person suffering from tinnitus will become aware of extra neurological activity. In fact, the changes may cause the perceived sound to become even more noticeable and disturbing.
Some people find the presence of tinnitus troubling, so their brains amplify the importance of the condition. Their increased awareness can lead to stress and result in further enhancement by the emotional centers of the brain. Unfortunately, amplification of tinnitus only propels the tinnitus cycle.
Additionally, sometimes the brain will attempt to compensate for hearing loss by “turning up” the sensitivity of the hearing system. Not only does this amplify the tinnitus, but it can also make ordinary sounds uncomfortably loud, further adding to the person’s stress and anxiety. Approximately 25% of people with tinnitus experience hypersensitivity to sound, also known as hyperacusis.
Ending the Cycle & Finding Relief
These frustrating factors can result in a tinnitus cycle: a series of self-reinforcing symptoms that can lead to progressive worsening of the tinnitus over time. In the past, these factors made tinnitus very difficult to treat. Luckily, times have changed.
If you suffer from tinnitus, don’t lose hope. Several tinnitus treatment tools have been developed in recent years by Oticon, Widex, Desyncra, and ReSound. These breakthrough treatments can significantly reduce one’s awareness of tinnitus and effectively eliminate the tinnitus cycle. In fact, over 90% of suitable patients with tinnitus reported a notable difference in their condition after using one of these effectual, evidence-based treatment options.
So why wait? Dr. Julie offers all of these tinnitus treatments to people living in and around Denver, Colorado. Explore your treatment options, give Sound Relief Hearing Center a call, and schedule an appointment today.