Tinnitus is also known as a ringing, buzzing, humming or other similar sound that some patients can hear in their ears. It affects nearly 50 million Americans and can be very disabling. These sounds are not real sounds but can appear to be very real to the people who suffer from this condition.
Baby boomers are the most common age group to experience tinnitus. This happens because they reach an age at which hearing is beginning to diminish and that is when tinnitus is most likely to be perceived.
We know from research on animals that tinnitus most frequently occurs when input to the brain from the inner ear is not occurring or is diminished. This is what happens in hearing loss. We also know that in greater than 50% of patients with tinnitus who wear hearing aids that their tinnitus is reduced or eliminated. However, this is usually temporary and tinnitus can resume when the hearing aid is no longer in the ear.
Research1 has shown that new signals come into the hearing part of the brain and replace the lost signals from the inner ear. However, these new signals coming into the brain tend to overcompensate and make everything noisy thus cause the disabling tinnitus that patients can experience. The research has shown that these new signals come from the sensory input of the nerves of the face, neck and jaw. Interestingly, some people who move or manipulate their face or jaw can cause the tinnitus to increase or change in character. Studying tinnitus helps us to better understand the relationship of hearing loss and sensory input to the brain.
However, it’s not just the new signals replacing the lost signals in the hearing part of the brain but the timing of these signals. Therefore, new methods of disrupting the timing of these signals might lead to a cure for tinnitus. In fact, some particular styles of hearing aids that are sold by Hearing Professionals incorporate technology that helps some tinnitus sufferers. Tinnitus does not have a proven cure at this moment but the hope is that with new research we might be able to find a cure. We will keep you up to date on the latest research in our blog. In the meantime, please contact Hearing Professionals to have your hearing tested if you suffer from tinnitus and we will do our best to find you a product designed to address your needs.
1Stimulus Timing-Dependent Plasticity in Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus Is Altered in Tinnitus
Seth D. Koehler and Susan E. Shore
The Journal of Neuroscience, December 11, 2013 • 33(50):19647–19656 • 19647