A: As provided by Dr. Keith Darrow, Ph.D. CCC-A
Audiologist and Doctor of Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology
Tinnitus is defined as a sensation of sound in your ears, sometimes in your head. Each person with Tinnitus has a different sound experience; for some its ‘ringing’, some it’s a ‘whooshing’, and for others it sounds like the inside of a ‘seashell’. Tinnitus is experienced by 80% of people with hearing loss. Some of these people only notice the Tinnitus in a quiet room, whereas many others experience the sound all day long – and it can interfere with daily life.
The prevailing theory on why people with hearing loss experience Tinnitus is called the ‘Central Gain’ theory. The ‘sound in your ears / head’ is the result of a loss of proper stimulation present in normal hearing individuals. More simply – because the brain is not properly stimulated by the ear, the brain attempts to make up for the missing stimulation, which results in over-exciting the system. This neurological phenomenon has been likened to ‘phantom limb’ experience.
Fortunately, there is a treatment option. In fact, the only FDA (Food and Drig Administration) approved treatment option for Tinnitus is to provide the brain with the proper stimulation. There is no pill, no surgery, no other available option approved to treat Tinnitus. Today’s treatment options are available for people with hearing loss, and for individuals with normal hearing. Most patients report a significant reduction in their daily Tinnitus experience – some even say the ‘ringing is gone during the day’.