While the tinnitus cycle can begin with hearing loss, it’s not just an auditory problem. It’s driven by neurological changes within the auditory system and the areas of the brain that influence your conscious attention and emotional state. The result is you hear a frustrating sound resembling whistling, hissing, buzzing, or roaring. While no single explanation applies, the following is a commonly accepted causality theory.
Tinnitus is most commonly caused by hearing loss from exposure to loud or excessive noise. People who work in jobs 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 ringing in the ears.
Other common causes of tinnitus include aging, ototoxic drugs, Temporo-mandibular joint disorder (TMJ), Meniere’s disease, depression, anxiety, Lyme disease, and thyroid disorders, as well as ear infections or wax build up.
When damage to the hair cells in the cochlea upsets sound’s natural balance, it can alter neurological activity in the brain, which interprets it as sound. The result is you may experience tinnitus, which is background neurological activity that resembles whistling, ringing, buzzing, or roaring.
When someone lives with chronic tinnitus, everyday sounds and background noise may mask the sound. When it is quiet; however, they may become aware of extra neurological activity. In fact, the changes may cause the sound – the background noise – to become even more noticeable and disturbing.
Some people find the presence of tinnitus so troubling that their brains amplify awareness and importance of the condition. This increased cognizance can lead to stress, which can further enhance the emotional centers of the brain. Unfortunately, this amplification only enhances the tinnitus cycle.
Sometimes the brain attempts to compensate for hearing loss by “turning up” the sensitivity of the hearing system. This amplifies tinnitus and can make ordinary sounds uncomfortably loud, adding to a person’s stress and anxiety. About 25% of people with tinnitus experience sound hypersensitivity, 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 tinnitus over time. In the past, these factors made tinnitus very difficult to treat. Luckily, times have changed.
Contributing to this cycle are lackluster experiences. Whether it’s from an under-trained “specialist,” shady business practices, indifferent customer service, or poor product selection because the provider is owned by a manufacturer, you may be needlessly suffering as a result.
How do you break the cycle of tinnitus?
Perhaps you’ve even been told that nothing can be done about your tinnitus. What that person meant was that they couldn’t help. We can. We know you don’t want to make a second trip to an audiologist, but we offer effective treatment options that combine prescriptive sound therapy, directive counseling, and decades of experience to help you find the relief you deserve. At Sound Relief there is hope for you, and there is help for you.