Have you ever wondered what the connection is between hearing loss and tinnitus? The reality is those whistling, humming noises known as tinnitus are more closely related to hearing damage and hearing loss than you might think.
Studies have shown that as many as 72% of tinnitus sufferers also experience hearing loss. Research into the exact nature of the connection between hearing loss and tinnitus is still in its infancy but if you’re experiencing tinnitus there’s a pretty good chance you have some hearing loss too.
But whatever the cause, the fact is tinnitus can be very unpleasant and can negatively impact your quality of life.
If I have hearing loss why am I hearing noises?
The hearing system relies on a complex mix of physical, neural, mental and emotional elements. So when damage occurs to any part of the auditory system it can trigger effects that science doesn’t currently fully understand. This explains why tinnitus noises are mostly audible only to the sufferer (subjective tinnitus) with the noise being audible to others in less than 1% of cases (objective tinnitus).
It seems that when damage occurs to any part the auditory system such as the delicate hair cells the brain recognises that it is no longer receiving the sound information it needs. The brain literally tries to make up for the missing sounds by a kind of guess work. The result is those phantom sounds known as tinnitus. It’s actually very similar to the more familiar phantom limb that amputees experience.
The brain further tries to make up for the hearing loss by amplifying the sounds it can process. It’s a little bit like turning up a microphone too much and getting that squealing feedback. The part of the brain that processes sound is also involved in controlling emotional response. This emotional connection along with the brain amplification may explain in part why some tinnitus sufferers also experience painfully heightened sensitivity to sound (hyperacusis).
It’s really a kind of double whammy and it can make the relationship between hearing loss and tinnitus particularly painful for some people. Some researchers suggest there is a possible relationship between the specific frequency bands of hearing loss and the pitch of the tinnitus but this has not been conclusively proven.
Hearing loss and tinnitus are not always connected. Head injuries, concussion, dizziness, meningitis, and various infections such as sinus infections may trigger mild tinnitus without any hearing loss symptoms. Jaw alignment issues, certain types of drugs, and even particular personality types may also be implicated in cases of tinnitus where there is no hearing loss.
Although there is some confusion about what tinnitus is there is still a lot we can do to make tinnitus more manageable. Modern hearing aid innovations can help to mask tinnitus sounds and make life infinitely easier for tinnitus sufferers. Call the House of Hearing today and let us show you how hearing aids can make the relationship between hearing loss and tinnitus much more harmonious.