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Is There a Link Between Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

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Tinnitus and hearing loss are common conditions that people experience. Research shows that 15% of Americans have tinnitus, while nearly 16% report hearing troubles. Is there a link between hearing loss and tinnitus? Let’s take a closer look at how tinnitus and hearing loss interact.  

What Are Hearing Loss and Tinnitus? 

Hearing loss, deafness or hearing impairment is the partial or total inability to perceive sounds. Hearing loss can be mild to moderate, severe and profound. People experiencing mild hearing impairment may find it challenging to hear speech with noise around, while those with the moderate variant depend on hearing aids administered by their audiologist. However, severely or profoundly deaf people completely rely on sign language or lip-reading. 

On the other hand, tinnitus occurs when a person hears sounds that aren't present externally. Indeed, almost everyone will face faint tinnitus in a quiet room, which is a normal occurrence. However, it becomes concerning when it interferes with normal hearing or accompanies other conditions. It is often reported as a ringing, but people also experience buzzing, clicking, swooshing, whistling or roaring. Moreover, it can be loud or soft, low or high-pitched and can come from the ears or head. 

How Are Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Linked? 

The Hearing Loss Association of America indicates that 90% of the 50 million people with tinnitus also experience hearing loss. However, not everyone is aware that they have both conditions. It's not uncommon for tinnitus to follow the same pattern of hearing loss, so keep this in mind. For instance, a person finding it challenging to hear high frequencies often experiences high-pitched hissing or ringing. Likewise, a person is likely to experience tinnitus in the ear with hearing loss. 

Tinnitus Can Be Over-Compensation for Noise Loss

The loss of sound can produce phantom sounds. Normal hearing occurs when soundwaves arrive at the cochlea filled with fluid and hair cells. These hair cells then turn the fluid vibration into electrical signals that go to the brain through the auditory nerve. The auditory system can become more sensitive when the brain gets fewer signals from the cochlea due to hearing loss. This is why some people with tinnitus are highly sensitive to loud noise. 

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Can Cause Tinnitus 

People often experience ringing in their ears after hearing loud sounds. Indeed, loud noises can damage the hair cells in the cochlea and the nerves that carry signals to the brain. Unfortunately, these damages can be permanent, as these hair cells cannot regrow.

This explains why people constantly exposed to loud noises experience permanent hearing loss. People with this hearing loss often hear ringing, whooshing, buzzing or roaring sounds while shouting when communicating with others. 

Tinnitus Can Signify Hearing Loss 

Although tinnitus can be your auditory system compensating for the lack of noise, it can also signify that you are losing your hearing. However, it doesn’t mean that you have hearing loss if you're experiencing tinnitus. Therefore, it's important to visit the audiologist for proper examination and diagnosis. 


 

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