Is Tinnitus a Sign of Hearing Loss, or a Different Condition?

a woman experiencing slight ear discomfort

Hearing loss comes in many different forms, and it’s often not until you are dealing with something like tinnitus to realize that you have hearing issues. Hearing loss and tinnitus often go hand in hand, and hearing loss can be mild or it can be severe as a result. Even minor injuries to the inner ear don’t always result in hearing loss, but they can still result in tinnitus. Tinnitus is an annoying noise, and it can be exceptionally difficult to live with if it’s new to you. The worry about why you are experiencing tinnitus may lead you to think that you are losing your mind – but you’re not.

The ringing defines tinnitus in the ears with no physical or auditory evidence to anyone else. When you hear ringing in the ears, your hearing loss may not be measurable by the conventional hearing tests out there. One of the most common signs that you’re dealing with hearing loss is an inability to hear due to background noise, but what is the cause behind tinnitus?

Reduced or absent audiological input

There is plenty of research out there to show that tinnitus can be caused by reduced nerve activity between the damaged inner ear and the brain’s central nervous system. This then leads to an increase in nerve activity while the signals are traveling to the hearing center, and there is then no sound being picked up by the ear, but sound is heard. This is tinnitus. Overexposure to sound can damage the hair cells in the inner ear, and it’s these hair cells that send signals to the brain. Too much overexposure can then lead to noise-induced hearing loss.

Is tinnitus a sign of hearing loss?

Medical research shows that those being treated for hearing loss with this level of increased audiological input can reduce the experience they have with tinnitus. While tinnitus is not curable, hearing aids and cochlear implants can make a difference to the way people experience it. Hearing aids from your hearing instrument specialist can hide or mask the tinnitus, which can provide relief if all you hear is ringing in the ears. Everyone who has tinnitus has some form of hearing loss, but not everyone who has hearing loss displays tinnitus signs.

Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?

No. It’s a common misconception, but tinnitus does not cause hearing loss. They occur together much of the time, but it’s not a cause. Both tinnitus and hearing loss can be caused by noise exposure, and most people with tinnitus are not even aware that they have a hearing loss in the first place.

Tinnitus can sign other issues going on, from Meniere’s disease to mental health conditions linked to stress. When we hear, sound travels through into the cochlea and this is lined with hair cells. When this part of the ear becomes damaged or doesn’t work, the electrical signals sent to the brain are reduced. If the brain’s hearing area is filling the gap with other sounds, this is one of the causes of tinnitus. Hearing loss makes you more aware of tinnitus as the usual background noise you hear won’t be present to help you mask the ringing you are experiencing.

Stress is a significant factor with tinnitus, too. A third of people who deal with tinnitus have normal hearing, and there are plenty of people out there with hearing loss who do not have tinnitus. Therefore we must look at other factors that can cause the tinnitus you are experiencing. We mentioned stress as a cause, and there is a good reason for that.

There is a known link between stress and tinnitus, and any stress can be a source, or it could exacerbate an existing problem. Tinnitus also makes an individual feel stressed and anxious, so it’s essential to know how to manage your stress so that you can potentially reduce the symptoms of tinnitus. It’s a vicious circle, stress can lead to tinnitus, tinnitus can then lead to further pressure because of the noise!

Over time and with management and help from a hearing instrument specialist, you can reduce your experience. If you have started to hear a ringing, buzzing or ticking, the best thing you can do today is to book an appointment with a hearing instrument specialist. At Dove Hearing Center LLC, we have the experts on hand to help you deal with tinnitus and any other hearing-related issue. Call us today at 208-369-4307, and you can reach one of our friendly team members to schedule an appointment.