What causes tinnitus and how does it affect me?
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease – there are many possible causes. Inside the ear are tiny hair cells that convert the sounds you hear into signals the brain can understand. If some of these hair cells are damaged, the brain receives fewer signals. Some research suggests that our brain tries to compensate for the missing signals by producing a new sound in their place. However, this does not explain why people with presumably normal hearing can also experience tinnitus. This fact and others indicate that the cause of tinnitus is related to brain processes, not just the hair cell damage in the hearing system.
There are many reasons why hair cells may be damaged – common causes are the natural aging process, exposure to loud sounds or sudden impact noises. However, tinnitus can also be caused by a reaction to certain medicines, neck or head injuries, or other untreated medical conditions.
How does tinnitus affect me?
Some people can ignore their tinnitus most of the time. For others, however, the symptoms can become so disturbing that a proper night’s sleep is impossible. A negative cycle can begin, causing tinnitus to take centre stage in everyday life. Consult a physician or hearing professional if you are experiencing the symptoms of tinnitus.