Before we look at the cause of Tinnitus, let's start by with some background.
Tinnitus refers to a noise – often a hissing or buzzing that comes from inside the head.
Sufferers of tinnitus describe the noise as like the sound of waves crashing, bells ringing or even the sound of machinery in the distance.
Patients may experience tinnitus in one or both ears or in the head. The greatest challenge for most people is that tinnitus is there all the time.
A trip to the doctor provides medication for most of life’s problems but for the tinnitus sufferer it feels like there is no respite. People with tinnitus feel powerless. They feel that tinnitus controls their life.
As a result of muscular activity and blood rushing through the cranial vessels it is noisy inside our heads. However, we are rarely aware of these sounds because the cochlea (inner ear) is shielded by the hard temporal bone (bone to which the ear is attached).
Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom resulting from a range of underlying causes. The most common cause is noise induced hearing loss from exposure to loud noises.
Nearly everyone experiences a mild or transient form of tinnitus. After a loud concert you may be left with a buzzing sound in your ears which fades from awareness after a few hours.But for others the tinnitus pattern remains.
Many people go through stressful times in their lives. The stress activates hypersensitivity in the body. As the nervous system gets overwhelmed they may start to hear sounds in the background. Even when there isn’t any noise there!
Research carried out by Heller and Bergman in 1953 found that 94% of healthy participants, when placed in a totally silent room, developed tinnitus. The silence brought on a stress response in the body. Once a fight or flight stress response was activated the participants turned up their internal sensitivity so that they became aware of the slightest noise. In this emergency state the participants became hypersensitive to noises that normally they wouldn’t detect.
That is either prolonged or present for much of the time, 0.5% are so affected as to have difficulty in leading a normal life. Other studies have estimated that tinnitus affects as many as 40 million adults in the United States.
Tinnitus may be either objective or subjective. In objective tinnitus others can also hear the sounds (e.g. the doctor). This form of tinnitus is generally caused by muscular spasms, blood flow through malformed vessels and tumours.
However, the majority of tinnitus cases are subjective. This means that only the patient hears the sound.
Some causes of subjective tinnitus are:
A hyper-sensitive nervous system may become easily overburdened, so that a simple cold or ear syringing may end in Tinnitus.
The best way to help clear the tinnitus is to learn to relax the body and switch off. Letting go is very difficult for people with Tinnitus and so recovery may be a long process of learning to connect with their bodies and getting in touch with what happens below the neck.