Are you one of the millions of people whose ears ring?
Or maybe they buzz, hiss, chirp, roar, pulse, or maybe you're even one of the rare few who constantly hear music.
If yes, you have a condition called tinnitus (tin-eye-tus or tin-eh-tus are both ok ways to say it...just don't say tendonitis...please).
It's a condition that's most common in people who have hearing damage, but there are a few reasons why it happens, and there are some things you can do to make it better.
The best theory for why we experience tinnitus is the "Phantom Limb" theory. This concept borrows from research in the amputation field.
Say, for example, someone is in an accident and they lose their right arm. Their entire life that arm has sent nerve impulses up to a specific part of their brain, but now all of a sudden there's no arm and no nerve impulses.
So what do those neurons do?
Finding themselves unused and bored, they throw a party in the amputee's brain. They create itching and tingling sensations where the arm used to be. This is what's called "Phantom Limb Syndrome".
Our ears do something similar when we develop hearing loss (especially for people who damaged their hearing with loud noise).
Those neurons that were once responsible for hearing a certain range of sound now have nothing to do, because you've experienced damage to the part of year ear that sends those sounds to your brain.
And the neurons are throwing a party! Ring, roar, hiss, buzz...PARTY!
So what can we do about it?
Well, we know that this is often happening because the neurons aren't being stimulated, so the first thing to do is try to stimulate them with sound.
This means wearing hearing aids. A good percentage of people who aid their hearing actually see a significant tinnitus reduction!
Some people start experiencing severe emotional and psychological reactions to tinnitus, which actually reinforces the tinnitus and makes it louder.
If this is you or someone you love, I'd recommend a combination of sound therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to break the psychological loop that's reinforcing the problem.
There are a few lifestyle items to be mindful of. Things that make tinnitus worse include:
- High blood pressure
- Poor sleep
Avoid the above and who knows, not only might you improve your tinnitus, you might even get healthier in general : )
If you or someone you know suffers from tinnitus, there are new technologies and treatment techniques coming out all the time, and we'd be happy to talk to you about your options!