The Tinnitus Cycle
While many people know tinnitus as that annoying ringing in their ears, tinnitus is not actually a hearing loss issue. Instead, it's a neurological disorder. Neurological changes in your brain and auditory system are the root cause of tinnitus. Your ears are actually hearing those neurological changes and are tricked into thinking it is sound coming from your ears.
Tinnitus is generally caused by hearing loss from exposure to loud noises. Those who work in jobs that involve being around loud noise for extended periods of time – such as musicians, construction workers, pilots, air traffic controllers, military personnel, and first responders – are usually most likely to experience hearing loss and tinnitus.
The tinnitus 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 build up.
When hearing damage 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 a person lives with constant tinnitus, everyday sounds and background noise may sometimes mask the sound. However, when it is quiet, that person becomes 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.
Tinnitus: Next Steps
If you are suffering from tinnitus, contact Rocky Mountain Audiology today to explore our treatment options. Our audiologists specialize in tinnitus treatment, and we have provided life-changing relief to countless patients through FDA-approved tinnitus treatments. Schedule An Appointment today, or call our Edwards location at (970) 926-6660 or our Glenwood Springs location at (970) 945-7575.