Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Do You Hear What I Hear? The Bane of Tinnitus

Hearing is one of our most important senses because it alerts us to danger and the joys of life, and when it is impaired, patients suffer emotional trauma.

The relentless sound of rumbling, ringing, or other hearing-related distortions of hearing perception isn’t to be taken lightly. Known as tinnitus, it affects millions of people worldwide, interfering with their ability to concentrate and hear clearly. The literature on tinnitus has increased by about 30% over the past decade, and it is estimated that, globally, 740 million people are affected.

While participants with chronic tinnitus reported more difficulties hearing in noisy environments than controls in some studies, participants with chronic tinnitus also more frequently reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. It is interesting to note that participants in one study with chronic tinnitus did not report more noise exposure than controls, despite this finding in other studies. This latter finding is not surprising given that participant recall limits the accuracy of self-reports of noise exposure and that exposure episodes’ frequency and repetition affect the participant’s recall.

Due to its potential connection to aging, many people believe that tinnitus is only a problem for adults. However, research in publications has indicated otherwise. Tinnitus affects between 4.7% and 46% of children in the general pediatric population and among children whose hearing is good. It also affects between 23.5% and 62.2% of children who have hearing loss. However, these estimates may not relate to real-world situations.

Some experts say that the numbers for children’s tinnitus prevalence are too low because of problems with communication. On the other hand, it could be said that kids lie about having tinnitus when they are asked to please the person asking. A subjective experience, tinnitus in children may be very difficult to know its extent in the population. In adults, its assessment may be quite different.

Often, chronic tinnitus-related distress (TRD) happens along with or instead of psychological or psychosomatic symptoms like depression, anxiety, or other somatization symptoms that may or may not happen in the context of clear medical factors like vertigo, sweating, blurred vision, headaches, periods of weakness, pain, nausea, or shortness of breath.

People who said they had chronic tinnitus were more likely to have weaker middle-ear muscle reactions, fewer cochlear nerve responses, and more activity in the central auditory pathways.

Reports indicate hearing loss linked to getting older before age 65 is more common in men, especially in people who have been around noise a lot. Also, in line with what has been written, people with chronic tinnitus were more likely to have had a concussion and show signs of anxiety and/or depression.

People who say they have tinnitus are often given the wrong diagnosis and think that their doctors do not understand or appreciate their condition. This feeling that their doctors do not understand can make their condition worse by making them depressed, stressed, tired, unable to cope, losing the ability to do daily tasks, having poor cognitive functioning, or even committing suicide. It is a very serious condition when we consider its far-reaching effects on someone’s life and their psychological difficulties.

There is a lot of agreement around the world that specialized cognitive-behavioral therapy should be used to help people with tinnitus. This is because there is more evidence that this type of therapy works to reduce patients’ distress and impairment. However, it has been suggested that CBT could also change how people experience tinnitus, but this has not yet been tested across studies.

Numerous options are available in addition to those that doctors provide, both online and elsewhere. When searching online, it is important to be wary of any claims that they can “cure,” “reduce,” or “eliminate” tinnitus. You can download many sound-therapy apps for free or very little money and use them on your phone.

One new app is receiving favorable attention. The MindEar app uses chatbots to help people with tinnitus use a virtual cognitive-behavioral therapist. The app also uses sound therapy, mindfulness, and meditation techniques to help people tune out the effects of their tinnitus in their minds.

For anyone with tinnitus, the thing to remember is that there are ways to learn to cope with it and to utilize various means at their disposal in a self-help mode. All is not lost, and the future will bring even better resolution to those affected by tinnitus.

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Pat Farrell PhD
Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.


Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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