A beginner’s guide to tinnitus today! Tinnitus is the auditory phenomenon whereby we hear sounds that don’t exist. If a tree falls in the wood, and no one‘s around, does it make a sound? No, it makes an oscillating wave from the particles of the air, and that’s it, because you need ears to hear that as “sound”.
But! You can hear a tree falling, a wave crashing, the static on the radio or a smoke alarm wailing even if you are in the woods and none of those things are happening! That’s tinnitus.
So, people normally experience this auditory hallucination when they have hearing damage. This is because (we think), there is less stimuli getting through to the higher centres of the brain. When the brain, which is used to being stimulated by sounds all the time (even a quiet room has around 30dB of sound), has nothing to play with, it twiddles its metaphorical thumbs and creates hallucinations. The nerves fire even though no stimulus set them off, and these phantom signals are “heard” as noise just the same as genuine noise.
In one study, it was found that 85% of normal-hearing people developed tinnitus if they were put in a sound-proofed environment. It is a really natural thing! Sense organs are there to pick up stimulus and report back!
It‘s rather often a high pitched ringing sound, because people tend to obtain damage to their high pitched hearing region first/worst. But it can be anything. A white noise is fairly common (all frequencies together, like radio static/sea).
Tackling tinnitus is a whole subject all on its own, and not for this post. My husband (a psychologist) makes it his life’s work. But understanding it is the first step to beating it.
Do Hearing Aids Make Tinnitus Worse?
Absolutely not. If anything, they help. By providing access to the environmental sounds your hearing loss is preventing you from hearing, they make it less, not more, likely that you will trigger/hear your tinnitus. I have yet to hear of a single person who has had a worsening of tinnitus after wearing aids, and know literally hundreds who have been helped.