The word Tinnitus is a deviation of a 19th century latin word ‘tinnire’ that means to ring or tinkle from an imitative origin. Tinnitus is an awareness of a noise from inside the ear, which doesn’t originate from any external noise, everyone’s experience of Tinnitus is different, people hear lots of different sounds.
Tinnitus is a Diverse and invisible condition, Millions deal with the burden of tinnitus every day, for most it is a minor distraction in their life, for others it is unsettling enough for their life to be disrupted. It is hard for any sufferer to get a concrete diagnosis. It manifests in many forms, for example the sound can be tonal or pulsating, irregular or constant or it can be acute or chronic, It is relative to the individual. Bad cases can lead to further health issues. Including sleep disruption, anxiety and even depression, interfering with work performance and affecting the individual’s social well-being.
An American Tinnitus Association Study of over 1,000 tinnitus suffers asked ‘how much does tinnitus impact your life on a daily basis?’ 34% said it was annoying, but didn’t significantly impact on their life too much, but 18% said that it cause them sleep problems, 16% said trouble concentrating and 13% caused anxiety. Only 4% said that they barely noticed the tinnitus.
Many believe that the source of Tinnitus is part of the filtering network between our ears and our brain. The Medicaldaily.com website explains ‘tinnitus may occur when the brain amplifies sounds that normally wouldn’t enter our consciousness’ This sophisticated auditory system that is intended for relaxation and pleasure, is also designed to alert you of any danger, the fight or flight mechanism.
The example that best illustrates this is, if you are in a room with lots of different conversations, you’re unable to focus on all of these sounds, but if your name is mentioned in close proximity, your hearing is focused on that conversation. Sometimes this filtering system can go wrong and the sounds that we would normally block out become stronger and more noticeable.
There are many stories online about how Tinnitus has affected people’s lives, here are some examples.
Simon’s story on neuromonics.com is a common one, he first noticed it whilst in school and then it got worse after college, but he learnt to manage the Tinnitus.
There are many stories on reddit, as LifewithT describes, he became depressed when he developed tinnitus and explains that he was a heavy drinker with a busy work life. He learnt to live with tinnitus and it has “actually improved my outlook on life”
Again on Reddit, Skatingdark explains that there are not many examples of stories of people that have been cured of tinnitus. He found tinnitus retraining therapy a huge help and has recommended it to many friends that suffer.
A thread started by WendyS on Tinnitustalk Forum has the story of how Wendy developed her tinnitus and how she went from “being a very strong, component woman to someone who had to have someone with her everywhere she went”
All of these stories have a common theme running through them, the tinnitus effected their lives in a big way to start with, but when they managed and understood it, they found life went back to normal.
It’s important to understand that tinnitus isn’t solely related to just the ear. The Auditory brain, as shown above, has many different filters and it is the connections and filters between the ear (auditory nerve) and the brain (auditory cortex) that causes/creates the sensation of Tinnitus.
There are many factors that appear to cause Tinnitus, Working in loud environments contributes to hearing loss and hearing loss is commonly linked to tinnitus, our brain compensates for the deterioration of the hearing by amplifying many sounds that we normally block out, Thus increasing the risk of Tinnitus. This is true also if you have recently had the flu or a cold, the auditory brain is more aware of sounds that it would normally block out. Stress and anxiety are frequently linked to causing tinnitus, but in actually fact they are normally a consequence of tinnitus or an aggravator of it, Also high blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the ear to pulsate, sometimes giving the symptoms of tinnitus. Tinnitus is so diverse that the Cause of it can be difficult to determine. It is widely acknowledged that Tinnitus is a result of a physical or mental adjustment that is not always related to the ears or the hearing.
It is true that some medications are a contributing factor to tinnitus. Very high doses of aspirin can bring on temporary tinnitus, but as soon as the medication has worn off, this normally subsides. This level is normally several times higher than that prescribed. Other drugs that have had links to tinnitus include Quinine (used for malaria) a few chemotherapy drugs and powerful antibiotics. It is often coincidental that people that take medication suffer from tinnitus as a side-effect.
The Key point to take away from this is that tinnitus is different for everyone, because the sound is local and different to the individual, it is very difficult to get a diagnosis, a cause or a full understanding of the extent of an individuals’ tinnitus. Tinnitus is not common, about 10% of the population suffer from it, it is often thought that Tinnitus is limited to the elderly, this is untrue, and all age groups are susceptible. If you think that you are suffering from Tinnitus, visit your GP and talk to them about it. Moving forward you should also not let the Tinnitus disrupt your life, worrying about it will only make it worse, keep doing the things that you enjoy and the tinnitus will become a background distraction or non-existent.