Severity of Tinnitus Related to Emotional Sounds
A research study out of the University of Illinois has suggested that the severity of tinnitus related to emotional sounds. Not only do those with severe tinnitus process emotions differenty in the brain compared to those who report the severe tinnitus but also that among those who have tinnitus, there are significant differences in which regions of the brain are used when processing emotions.
Not a disease in and of itself, tinnitus is usually a symptom of another underlying health condition or the result of trauma such as exposure to loud noise or ototoxic medications. Basically, tinnitus is the perception of sound such as ringing or buzzing in one or both ears when no sound is present. And that perception of sound means that the brain is a key player in the presence and severity of tinnitus.
“We are trying to understand how the brain adapts to having tinnitus for a very long time,” said Fatima Husain, University of Illinois speech and hearing science and neuroscience professor who led the research team.
The research study was especially significant given that, according to the NIDCD, 25 million people in the U.S. have experienced tinnitus symptoms lasting at least five minutes in the past year. There is no “cure” for tinnitus, only treatments and therapies that can reduce the severity of the condition.
Tinnitus and emotional sounds
During the study, the researchers used MRI brain imaging analysis to see changes in blood oxygen levels in the brain. Researchers first looked at the brain activity of those with tinnitus versus those without. When exposed to different types of sounds the results of the fMRIs showed those with tinnitus had greater engagement in different areas of the brain when exposed to emotion-triggering sounds than those without tinnitus.
The second round of fMRI revealed to researchers that those with less severe tinnitus, i.e. those who reported lower tinnitus distress, actually used a different pathway to process emotional information. It is possible that that the severity of tinnitus related to emotional sounds.
Understanding tinnitus for better therapies
The takeaway for the researchers was that greater activation of an area of the brain known as the frontal lobe helped control emotional responses and reduce tinnitus stress, which could have far-reaching implications on possible interventions or therapies for tinnitus.
An important note – tinnitus is reported in 85% of individuals with hearing loss. Treating your hearing loss can bring back the wonderful sounds of life, improve your relationships and help keep your mind sharp. For some people who have both tinnitus and hearing loss, just wearing hearing aids can also alleviate tinnitus. If you need help with your hearing or tinnitus, contact Peninsula Hearing Services for an appointment.
Reference: This article was modified from the article “Research shows severity of tinnitus is related to emotional processing” by Lisa Packer, staff writer, HealthHearing.com (November 7, 2017)